My maths department at Imperial now has a room in it called the "Access grid" room; the long and short of it is that this is a room with a fancy projector and a webcam, so someone at one university can give a seminar and someone at another university can watch (assuming that both universities have Access Grid rooms). Currently our room is typically used to give 1st year graduate-level mathematics courses broadcast to the universities of Bath, Bristol, Imperial, Oxford and Warwick. But there are far more mathematics departments in the UK with these "Access grid" facilities. For example, the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Durham, UEA, Exeter, Keele, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Loughborough, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton and York have their own network (crucially, with the same kit!) and there are plenty of other mathematics departments around the world that also have the same technology installed.
Ok so here's my idea (and who knows whether it will work out). According to the official timetable for our graduate seminars, the Imperial College Access Room was not being used on Friday afternoons. So I managed to book it from 3pm until 5pm. I intend on running an informal number theory seminar on Fridays in that room. The idea is that **any** mathematics department in the UK with an Access Grid room that is free at that time is welcome to participate. I hope to recruit speakers. The first non-meeting will be on Friday 17th October 2008, where at 3pm I will get my first chance to mess around in the room and we'll see how many of my friends we'll be able to spot. There will be no seminar on that day---it's just a trial run to see if things work and where I'll probably hustle for volunteers for speakers.
The first real seminar will be on Friday 24th October; I will give an informal chat about something or other, probably about recent ideas of myself and Toby Gee on what a general conjecture associating Galois representations to automorphic forms should look like. The start time will be 3pm plus however long it takes to wire everyone together, and the finish time will be about an hour later.
17th Oct: trial run to see if we can connect everyone together.
24th Oct: Kevin Buzzard (Imperial) "Galois representations and automorphic forms: a non-expert struggles."
31st Oct: Neil Dummigan (Sheffield) "Saito-Kurokawa lifts, Harder's conjecture and ratios of standard zeta values"
7th Nov: Samir Siksek (Warwick): "Integral Points on Curves of Higher Genus".
14rth Nov: Ambrus Pal (Imperial): "Grothendieck's section conjecture and diophantine decidability for hyperbolic curves"
21st Nov: NO SEMINAR (LMS Annual General Meeting)
28th Nov: Lassina Dembele (Essen): "A non-solvable Galois extension of Q that is ramified at 2 only."
5th Dec: Martin Huxley (Cardiff): "Gauss' circle problem."
A) Yes! Subscribe here.
It will be very low traffic, and I'll may well dismantle it in December (or at least make it impossible to post to it) when everything is done and dusted.
2) Can I post to it?
A) I *hope* I've managed to set it up so that you can. Send email to muggle-magic-number-theory-seminar [at] imperial.ac.uk and it should go to everyone in the list.
3) Why are we stopping in December?
A) (1) because I could only book the room until December, and (2) because the whole thing might turn out to be rubbish. If it works I'll try and push for more slots later on. On the other hand, if e.g. the geometers at Imperial get wind of this and want a go too, it'll be difficult for me to argue that I want an hour slot Jan-Mar if slots are hard to come by and we've already had one.
4) Can I just give a seminar the way I'd usually give one, or do I have to do things in a certain way (e.g. do I have to use an OHP?).
A) I am hoping that you can just give a normal seminar, any way you choose. I am a complete novice about all this: on 24th Oct I am just going to give a "chalk and talk" (i.e. whiteboard and special pen) seminar and we'll see what happens.
5) Fridays are no good for me. Can we have it another day?
A) No. Friday afternoons was the only slot that Imperial's access room was free. Sorry.
6) I don't come to work on Fridays! [or: my university doesn't have an Access Grid node, or: my university does have an Access Grid node, but it's in use at that time.] Can I watch the lectures anyway?
A) This answer *used* to say (in short) "Apparently, the answer is 'yes'; you can watch on your own computer if it has broadband internet access. I've been told that this is where you should go to download the software". BUT someone actually tried to do this on 17th Oct, from outside the UK, and found that they couldn't get into our "virtual room" without a password, and as far as I know this obstacle has not yet been removed. So (in short) the practical answer at this point seems that if you're not in the UK then you *HAVE* to be in an "Access Grid" room to watch the seminars. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who is in neither the TCC nor the MAGIC consortia and who manages to connect successfully to our seminar (either from an Access Grid Room or from their home computer or whatever). Perhaps if you're within the UK it's possible---I just don't know.
UPDATE: I now know people who have managed to watch Access Grid lectures from the comfort of their own home. I asked one of them how they did it, and their response was: "I used software downloaded from here, there are some instructions here and info about the "virtual venues" here - the TCC uses the Whitegate venue. I think there's other useful info buried on the ja.net website.". Note that this person did *not* "participate"---they just watched the lecture.
7) Why Muggle-MAGIC?
A) MAGIC is the official name of the network of the 14-or-so universities mentioned above (the ones that aren't Bath/Bris/Imp/Ox/Warw). I think that the remaining 5 also have some kind of official name (perhaps "TCC"?) but Neil Strickland (correctly) suggested that Muggle was a much better one.
Kevin Buzzard (mylastname at imperial.ac.uk)