About you: Mark is a Chartered Engineer who advises customers on major ship and submarine programmes. After completing his engineering degree he embarked on a career in engineering and technology, working at the sharp end on a number of £bn UK and overseas defence programmes. He has been responsible for leading the development and delivery of complex and challenging £m projects over the past 23 years.
The most recent use of mathematics in your job was...
Calculating the level of manpower effort and material expenditure required to deliver a complex and pan-industry new technology development, for a new submarine programme. Working to a limited client budget, I needed to calculate the overall pricing that would ensure that we could deliver the contract scope within budget and yet still make a profit for the company.
Some mathematics that amazed you is...
The Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers will displace 65 000 tonnes, which is over three times the size of the current 20 000-tonne UK Invincible Class carriers.
The new ships will have an overall length on 284m and be 73m wide. They will carry up to 1 500 people (up to 900 of whom will be aircrew).
Maximum speed will be 25kt (a knot is nautical measure of speed, equivalent to 1.15mph), with a range of 10 000nm at 15kt (1 nautical mile = 6 080ft or 1 853.18m).
The new carriers will be able to launch up to 24 aircraft in 15 minutes and recover the same number in just 24 minutes.
The ships will be built in various shipyards around the UK and floated to Rosyth, where they will be assembled into the finished ship in a huge dry dock.
Mathematics underpins all aspects of engineering, technology and business. In our increasingly complex and fast-moving modern world it is fundamental as being able to read and write. I simply wouldn’t be able to do my job without it!
As an engineer, I use mathematics in the calculation, estimation and analysis of complex requirements, quantities and performance parameters. In a business sense, I use it to calculate timescales, resources, material costs, budgets, pricing, turnover and profit. If I get the mathematics incorrect, the product may not operate correctly or safely. It could fail catastrophically, or we might not have the correct numbers of spare parts we need to maintain or repair it. It could also mean the difference between the company making a profit or not…and if we don’t get the calculations right we might not actually win the work in a competitive scenario. Finally, if we exceed the customer’s budget or deliver his project late, he might not give us any more business!
Your favourite/most significant mathematics-related anecdote is…
A modern Formula One racing car is a technological marvel, and the margins between success and failure are very slim. Pit stop precision plays a key role in success, with up to 25 people working like a well-oiled machine in a very small space and under extreme time pressure to refuel the car, change all four tyres and adjust the front wing (if needed) in under 10 seconds!
A mathematics joke that makes you laugh is...
Q: Why was 6 afraid of 7?
A: Because 7, 8, 9.
The Ark lands after The Flood. Noah lets all the animals out, saying "Go and multiply." Several months pass. Noah decides to check up on the animals. All are doing fine except a pair of snakes. "What's the problem?" asks Noah. "Cut down some trees and let us live there", say the snakes, “then we’ll be fine”. Noah follows their advice. Several weeks later, Noah checks on the snakes again. This time, there are lots of little snakes! Noah asks "How did the trees help?" "Well", say the snakes, "we're Adders, and we simply needed logs to multiply!"
Something else that makes you laugh is...
The Young Ones, Yes (Prime) Minister, Top Gear, The Apprentice, Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Your favourite television programme is…
Your favourite ice-cream flavour is...
Who inspired you?
Initially...My (maternal) grandfather: someone who, though not formally trained in engineering, was extremely adept and could turn his hand to the construction and repair of almost any mechanical and electrical device, often from first principles or using innovation and basic workshop equipment. A strong character with a sense of purpose, he was very much a family person, with strong morals, a community spirit and good sense of humour. He fought the London dock fires during WW2, also driving and maintaining the fire engines for the London Fire Brigade. He started his own garage business after the war, subsequently retiring from a major local motor retailer as Workshop Foreman.
Later...Colin Chapman: founder of Lotus Engineering and Team Lotus and one of the greatest innovators in F1 and road car design and engineering through the late 20th Century. He leaves an engineering legacy that is still apparent in the modern single seater racing car and road car design and production.
Sir Jackie Stewart: triple F1 World Champion who battled against dyslexia at school to become a world-class clay pigeon shooter. A strong advocate for improving safety in F1, he later became a successful team owner, broadcaster and businessman.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel: a British engineer who applied logic, innovation and determination to solving complex and long-standing engineering problems, and whose influence exists to this day in the engineering infrastructure across the UK.
Jeremy Clarkson: an innovative, capable and very amusing journalist and broadcaster, one of the few journalists who is able to deliver word-perfect copy to requirement and bang on schedule. Although somewhat of a 'marmite character', he is prepared to court controversy, standing up for common sense and not bowing to the 'PC brigade'. He has produced some great TV programmes, including a fascinating study into the life and work of Brunel and his own family history (Who Do You Think You Are?).
If you weren’t doing this job you would…
A racing driver or property magnate…or possibly both!