What I Took Away from NACONF15, Glasgow

The Biennial Numerical Analysis Conference

This was the 26th Biennial Numerical Analysis Conference, marking 50 years since the conference series begun at the University of Saint Andrews in 1965. Some of the participants had been to (almost) every single one of the 26 conferences, whilst for other like myself it was their first time. The conference is renowned for the high quality of research presented, its friendly atmosphere, and the large range of topics presented.

This Time Around

The conference was very diverse with minisymposia on mathematical biology and big data analytics as well as the traditional linear algebra, optimization, and PDE sessions. There were a number of recurring themes in the plenary sessions: tensor methods, stochasticity, and dimension reduction seem to be rapidly growing areas with many open problems to resolve.

Speaking of plenary sessions, there were some fantastic talks throughout the conference. In particular Cleve Moler and Mike Saunders did a great job of balancing historical context with contemporary research and software. Of the more technical plenary sessions my favourites were by Mike Giles and Tamara Kolda who did an excellent job of introducing Monte-Carlo methods and tensor decompositions, respectively, at a level accessible to someone like myself who was unfamiliar with the area. I’d recommend looking at their papers for further information.


Quote from Kahan about quadruple precision arithmetic in Mike Saunders talk.

My talk, about the Taylor series of matrix functions can be found on Slideshare here. Awad Al-Mohy also spoke about some of our recent work together with Nick Higham on the computation of the matrix cosine and sine functions (paper).

Some other interesting moments included:

  • Nick Trefethen announcing that he is planning a new book which uses Chebfun to work with ODEs.
  • Vanni Noferini joining the select group of people who have given a talk within which the audience was larger than the matrices being spoken about (his talk about the polar decomposition of 3×3 matrices was attended by around 20 people)!
  • Nick Higham gave a brilliant after dinner speech which mixed a history of the conference series with lots of personal anecdotes and a healthy dose of humour.

The City of Glasgow

This was actually the first time I’d been to Glasgow and it seemed like a brilliant city. I particularly enjoyed going around the Merchant City area: it was full of high-quality restaurants and bars. Nearby was the beautiful City Chambers where we were hosted by the mayor. The beautiful building was full of red marble and was a perfect place for the conference reception.


A marble column in the City Chambers.

As for Scottish delicacies, the haggis I tried was lovely. I had the traditional type and a haggis burger; I’d recommend both variants! We also tried a few whisky bars and the best was definitely ‘The Pot Still’ which stocked a tremendous variety of whiskies. The entire bar was full to the brim with bottles and they even had a ladder to reach the rarer varieties. Finally, no trip to Glasgow would be complete without a (surprisingly nice!) battered Mars bar.


The glorious battered Mars bar.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s