The Random Sample - an ACEMS Podcast Series

Welcome to The Random Sample, an ACEMS podcast series

We hope The Random Sample will give you a unique glimpse into the world of mathematics and statistics, and how these sciences play such a crucial role in so many areas where you wouldn't expect. You'll meet some fascinating people along the way and get the chance to know some of our researchers. Enjoy! (just click on the episode number to take you to each individual podcast)

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Episode list:

Episodes 12 &13: Space Junk & Shield Technology

Space junk and micrometeoroids present serious problems for any satellite or ship that ventures into earth's orbit. While we don't yet have graviton-based deflector shields like in Star Trek, there are some shield technologies that we use today to protect the craft.

In these two episodes, we talk about the problem of space junk and some of the maths and stats models that are used to predict the effectiveness of a shield.

Episode 11: Citizen Science & the Great Barrier Reef

In this episode, we explore an innovative project designed to help the Great Barrier Reef. It's called Virtual Reef Diver, and the project was named by ABC Science as its 2018 Citizen Science Project for National Science Week. The best part of the project is that you, or anyone in Australia or around the world, can help with the project from the comfort of your home or office. 

Episode 10: Pioneering Women - Helen Newton Turner

In this episode, we look back at the life of Helen Newton Turner, an Australian statistician and a statistical genetist who made some amazing contributions to science starting in the 1930s and spanning over a 40 year career.

Helen started off as a secretary, and worked her way up to become an accomplished statistician, principle scientist and world-renowned leader of CSIRO's program in sheep breeding research.  

Episode 9: Information Theory

Imagine your life without a mobile phone or WiFi. It wasn't that long ago that we didn't have either of these things.

In this episode, we chat with ACEMS Chief Investigator Matt Roughan about the fascinating concept of information theory, and how we got from morse code - all the way to where we are now. 

Episode 8: Women in STEM

Women make up less than one-fifth of the STEM workforce in Australia. But in this episode, we chat with three women who are doing what they can to help change those numbers, by the work and research they're doing. We discuss with them their different sciences, the importance of maths in their work, the challenges women have faced in the STEM workforce over the years, and why it's important to have women role models in STEM. Among the women we talk to is the President of Science & Technology Australia, Prof Emma Johnston. (pictured left)

Episode 7: A conversation with Prof Louise Ryan

Prof Louise Ryan is one of ACEMS Chief Investigators, and like many of ACEMS’ CIs she has had an amazing career of unlikely and unplanned opportunities.

In this episode, we chat with Louise about her career and what advice she has for PhD students and early career researchers. 

Episode 6: Wanted: Gender Equity in STEM

Why aren't there more women in maths or STEM? What's being done about that, and why is that so important?

In this episode, we chat with one of Australia's best known mathematicians, Prof Nalini Joshi from The University of Sydney, as she talks about why a maths education is more important than ever before.

Episode 5: Can you really be a mathematician?

According to, five of the top 10 jobs require skills that are maths-related.

In this episode, we explore whether the ways maths is taught needs to be changed to attract more students into maths to meet the demand for these jobs. We also talk to a woman who has made maths her career, and no one is more surprised about that than her!

Episode 4: Should you believe what the survey says?

When you see or hear news stories about the latest poll, or what conclusions have been drawn from one survey or another, it's easy to take that information at face value. But should you? Should you be more skeptical about the conclusions these claim to show us?

In this episode, we look at how surveys work, why we need them, and what you need to look out for before you're convinced.

Episode 3: How to get from a dog to DNA in two short steps

How does your phone or computer know the word you're trying to type and autocorrects you? How do online shops suggest books or other items for you to buy?

In this episode, we explore the concept of distance and how it can be used in places you wouldn't expect.

Episode 2: A not-so secret linear programming paper: The story of Alison Harcourt

In 1960, an Australian mathematician named AG Doig co-authored a seminal paper in the field of linear programming. This highly-cited paper created a tool that allowed computers to do something they were uniquely good at: solving optimisation problems. What no one knew at the time was that AG Doig was a woman!

In this episode, we chat with AG Doig, or as most people know her now, Alison Harcourt, about her life as a mathematics pioneer in Australia.

Episode 1: What do you win when you gamble?

How likely is it that you'll win big by playing the lottery, poker machines, or casino games?

In this episode, we look at gambling from a mathematician's point of view. The numbers will surprise you!

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