Cambridge life
12666 Coats, Shopping and Algorithms: Mathematics in the Everyday World

We do so love American things, here in good old Blighty. Doritos, Clifford the Big Red Dog, poptarts, trick or treating…Black Friday, however, was accepted more slowly by the tea-drinking populace of this tiny island nation. Perhaps it’s the ominous-sounding name – ‘Black’ often precedes bad things, making them sound a tad frightening and a potential threat to our stiff upper lip.

The Fine Art of Queuing

Nevertheless, I have to admit that I am greatly looking forward to the retail discounts coming on 23rd November. True, the sea of people crashing into John Lewis will be brutal, but it provides a wonderful opportunity to practice the fine art queuing. Yes, the stress of this entire affair will be intense, yet this only means I can turn to my dependence on tea to calm me down in the aftermath.The last time Black Friday fell on the 23rd was in 2007 – I was quite a young child then. Around this time, my school was inexplicably visited by a fellow who had claimed to have played a “rigour deer” on TV. I began watching this mysterious ‘Doctor Who’ in April, failing to identify any deer (rigorous or otherwise), but realising that I rather liked this programme. In fact, I liked it so much that I vowed to get myself a great, long coat – like that worn by Captain Jack or like the Doctor’s. I wanted to emulate both. At the same time. Despite their being completely different coats…

Eleven years on – with the word ‘brigadier’ firmly included in my vocabulary – I’m still searching for my long coat. There have been a couple of contenders, but none that quite billowed out behind me with the aplomb of the ‘hero coats’ that John Barrowman had described all those years ago. But this Black Friday falls on the 55th Anniversary of Doctor Who’s first episode. The universe is calling. This is my time.

It will also be time to don my lesser coats as armour, to charge out into the winter maw of Cambridge’s high street. How will I ensure, after such an ordeal, that this coat is the true heir to my childhood dream, and not another pretender?

With mathematics, of course!Doctor Who has helpfully provided me with several coats for reference – there have been 847 episodes of the show, and counting. To narrow the field, I have arbitrarily limited the pool to coats featured in the show that I, as an individual, would actually want to wear. Sadly, this meant ruling out the Thirteenth Doctor’s coat due to the cut of the garment being designed for a female figure – hardly flattering for my centrally rotund physique!

Thus, the included coats were: the two worn by the Eighth Doctor; the Fourth Doctor’s brown and grey coats; Twelve’s two sartorial affairs; Ten’s overrated, yet iconic overcoat; Jack Harkness’ military masterpiece; the two full-length coats worn by Matt Smith’s Doctor; and the coats of the Fifth, Sixth and War Doctors.

To begin, I applied the Shuttle Sort algorithm to the list of coats – comparing each coat to every other coat in turn to produce a ranked list of coats in order of coolness. Naturally, this required extensive research to view these garments in action.

(Editor’s Note: the author failed to submit this article by the initial deadline because he spent two weeks watching Doctor Who.)

Ahem. With a final ranking obtained, I then went through the coats and identified factors that led me to place each coat in their final position. These were, in order of importance:

For each factor, I devised a scoring system and combined all the variables into the following equation:However, that equation did not adequately explain why I enjoyed Tom Baker’s long, brown coat more than Capaldi’s gorgeous velvet piece. Nor did it account for the shape of the lapels – which was a deciding factor in ranking Eight’s Time War coat above Matt Smith’s superiorly coloured burgundy one.

So, I fiddled with the equation so that the influence of the variables made more sense, given my decisions in the ranking. I measured ‘influence’ by calculating the minimum possible Heroicness score, then dialling up a certain variable, like colour, to its maximum value while keeping everything else at their minimum and noting that Heroicness score down. The difference between those Heroicness scores was a crude measure of the ‘influence’ of that variable – I repeated for the other variables to compare and check that my fiddling was actually changing the influence!

The new equation, after about 6 alterations was:

Using this equation, I calculated a Heroicness score, or H-score, for each coat. Remarkably, the scores corresponded rather well to my initial rankings. The coats whose rankings the equation failed to predict were some interesting outliers. For example, it’s difficult to quantify just how garish the colour scheme is on the Sixth Doctor’s coat! And I still have no idea why I hate Eleven’s green coat so much…

The Perfect Doctor Who Coat

Anyway, the model works well enough for my purposes so I’ll just run with it for now. An H-Score of 0.98 corresponds to Jack Harkness’ coat. Which is a very, very cool coat. Therefore, I shall use that as my cut-off point when I assess potential purchases. Isn’t maths useful? I can now ask a shop assistant for a coat with an H-score of above 0.98! Of course, I will have to get this nonsense published in some reputable academic journal and then the news before that request will ever make any sense to that poor member of staff…

Even the most inane and ridiculous things can be clarified with maths, from the heroicness of coats to the dreams of a goldfish. Sadly, after that Doctor Who marathon and the needlessly complex equation, I forgot to account for the state of my bank account. Pity. The next time Black Friday falls on the 23rd, I’ll be ready!

Doctor Who Categories: Articles Tags: , 10842 Week Two Shenanigans – Spies, Scoundrels and Swaps

Having no doubt made many fond memories over the weekend, participants have successfully settled into the rhythm of their second week here at Immerse. Indeed, this week, an increasing number of our 16-18-year-olds have been taking advantage of mentor expertise in areas such as personal statement drafting and the interview process. Our younger participants have also been eager to make the most of the fantastic opportunities available to them. This week, our Law, Politics and International Relations students explored Cambridge’s very own Fitzwilliam Museum, whilst the Immerse medics tackled the fundamentals of first-aid.

Academics aside, this week has also brought with it the opportunity for new and exciting co-curricular activities. Yesterday evening, one half of our participants explored the spookier side of Cambridge, taking part in the notorious “Spies and Scoundrels” tour. A celebration of the city’s diverse history, the tour enabled students to uncover Cambridge’s murkier and mysterious past. Whilst this was going on, the other half of our Immerse participants experienced Cambridge’s social side, as they dined at Jamie’s Italian in the style of a “swaps” dinner. This involved a delicious three-course meal, with each mentor family sitting across the table from another. This provided ample opportunity for chat and relaxation, before participants headed to a late-evening debate workshop, led by our logistics co-ordinator, Reiss.

The Man From the BBC

Furthermore, this week marked another fabulous evening in our guest speaker series. This week’s guest was BBC journalist Simon Parker. On Monday evening, Simon spoke of his experience travelling over half the world in search of the most interesting news stories. Our participants were intrigued and inspired by the mental and physical challenges that Simon had undertaken in order to create content, from sailing across the Pacific to cycling across the breadth of the USA. His talk was followed up with a number of insightful questions, ranging from the tendency of social media to detach us from the world around us, to whether the goal of visiting every country in the world is viable in an era of increasing violence.

It is safe to say that week two has got off to a fantastic start – may it continue this way!

Stay tuned for more updates,


spies Categories: Blog Tags: 10809 Wham, Bam, Immerse leaves Cam!

This weekend marked a duo of superb city tours for our participants. On Saturday, all partook in a journey to the dreaded “other place” – Oxford. Students were eager to compare Queen’s College Oxford to Queens’ Cambridge, where they have been residing for the past week. They admired Queen’s Oxford characteristic architecture and praised its colourful fellows’ garden. However, of course this could not trump the glory of Queens’ Cambridge!

Time for Some Retail Therapy

During their free time, participants had the opportunity to explore the city’s historic market, hit the shops for some retail therapy, and grab a bite to eat from one of the many restaurants and classic market stalls. Students also took part in a walking tour of Oxford, immersing themselves in the University’s rich history, as they explored sites such as the Bodleian library. After this, students headed to Somerville for a smashing three-course formal dinner, in the College’s extravagant dining hall. Participants were impressed by this traditional end to a jam-packed day and the food did not disappoint. It is safe to say that the excursion was a success.

On Sunday, participants had the opportunity to head to London for the day. Turn-out for the trip to the capital was high, with mentors James, Flo, Yosi, Shefali, Emilia and Dan accompanying students. During the morning, our participants made the most of London’s fabulous Natural History and Science Museums, as well as the V&A. Students raved about the V&A’s “Theatre and Performance” section, which features costumes from the likes of Abba, Coldplay and The Lion King. Meanwhile, in the Natural History Museum, mentor James was struck by the array of rocks on show and provided a valuable insight into the workings of structures such as meteors and unrefined granite.

In the afternoon, all climbed aboard a classic double-decker London bus for a tour of the city. Tour-guide Gareth certainly knew his stuff, pointing out various streets and monuments. Immerse participants were lucky enough to see sites such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin and The Tower of London first-hand, from the comfort of the open top deck. Just fabulous!

To round off the day, Immerse participants headed to Zizzi Tower Hill for a much-needed recharge and a slice of pizza… or multiple. Dining beside some of the most famous sites in the world, mentees were able to reflect on their time spent in the capital. A scenic end to a splendid weekend, Immerse participants journeyed home with their hearts and stomachs filled.

Immerse Categories: Blog Tags: 10802 Cake, Canvas and Kayaking

Yesterday, despite the disruption from the woeful British weather, our participants were eager to take part in a variety of activities. Cake and Canvas, organised by our very own mentor Shefali, proved a massive hit. Whilst munching on cake, participants had the opportunity to showcase their creative talents. Paintings included subjects such as flowers, Cambridge city buildings and abstract forms. Perhaps most excitingly, one picture depicted the 2000s CBBC talent extraordinaire, Raven.

Today, participants had the opportunity to explore Newnham College. Arguably Cambridge’s most famous girls-only college, the gardens did not disappoint, with colourful flowers visible despite the downpour of rain. Mentees were also given a tour of the college’s wonderful library, exploring both the old and new parts of the facility. Our mentor James was very pleased with the plethora of Earth Sciences materials on offer.

This afternoon, students participated in one of three activities. These were: Brazillian drumming, Kayaking, and a tour of King’s College chapel. The latter was the most extravagant of the activity, with participants experiencing the stained-glass windows in all their glory, as the post-storm sunshine shone through. Tour-guide Maggie provided a wonderfully detailed historical overview of the chapel, covering topics such as the chapel’s architectural style and the story behind the images depicted in the windows.

This evening, our participants will be winding down with a popcorn-filled movie night. This will provide for a much-needed recharge before the big weekend, where mentees will be heading to both Oxford and London!

More updates soon,


cake and canvas Categories: Blog Tags: 10792 Formal Hall to Krashball – Immerse Does it All!

Over the past two days, students have immersed themselves in the cultural and academic opportunities that Cambridge has to offer. Last night, our participants experienced St John’s college in all its glory, as they dined in the college formal hall. A fabulous array of attire was worn, from dazzling dresses to dapper suits. Afterwards, participants raved about the food served and spoke highly of the venue’s ambiance.

Today, participants embarked on their third day of lessons. International Relations scholars dived into the ongoing issues presented by nuclear politics, such as that of nuclear proliferation. They also discussed International Organisations such as the UN. Meanwhile, our Computer Science students submerged themselves into the nitty-gritty of coding.

This afternoon, our students were split into two groups.One half explored sunny Cambridge from the comfort of a punt. This was led by Anthony, a fabulously knowledgeable tour guide, and excellent punter. Seeing the colleges from a new perspective was certainly a memorable experience for all. Meanwhile, the other half of our mentees played a game of “Krashball” on Lammas land. Also known as bubble football, players participate by wearing inflatable bubble zorbs! Exciting stuff.

This evening, students will have the opportunity to be inspired once again, as they hear from motivational speaker Sarah Outen. The best-selling author will be spilling the beans on her incredible life-journey, hosting a Q&A session for inquisitive participants.

I look forward to hearing how our mentees get on, and have no doubt that they will make the most of the opportunities here at Immerse!

More tomorrow,


punt Categories: Blog Tags: