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The Story of Maths The Language of the Universe

   2008    Science
This four-part British television series outlines aspects of the history of mathematics. Written and presented by University of Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy, it is a co-production between the Open University and the BBC. In the first episode, Marcus du Sautoy in Egypt uncovers use of a decimal system based on ten fingers of the hand and discovers that the way we tell the time is based on the Babylonian Base 60 number system. In Greece, he looks at the contributions of some of the giants of mathematics including Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras, who is credited with beginning the transformation of mathematics from a counting tool into the analytical subject of today. A controversial figure, Pythagoras’ teachings were considered suspect and his followers seen as social outcasts and a little be strange and not in the norm. There is a legend going around that one of his followers, Hippasus, was drowned when he announced his discovery of irrational numbers. As well as his work on the properties of right angled triangles, Pythagoras developed another important theory after observing musical instruments. He discovered that the intervals between harmonious musical notes are always in whole number intervals.
Series: The Story of Maths

Prediction By The Numbers

   2018    Science
Predictions underlie nearly every aspect of our lives, from sports, politics, and medical decisions to the morning commute. With the explosion of digital technology, the internet, and 'big data,' the science of forecasting is flourishing. But why do some predictions succeed spectacularly while others fail abysmally? And how can we find meaningful patterns amidst chaos and uncertainty? From the glitz of casinos and TV game shows to the life-and-death stakes of storm forecasts and the flaws of opinion polls that can swing an election, 'Prediction by the Numbers' explores stories of statistics in action. Yet advances in machine learning and big data models that increasingly rule our lives are also posing big, disturbing questions. How much should we trust predictions made by algorithms when we don't understand how they arrive at them? And how far ahead can we really forecast?

The Great Math Mystery

   2015    Science
Go with us on a mathematical mystery tour, a provocative exploration of math's astonishing power across the centuries. We discover math's signature in the swirl of a nautilus shell, the whirlpool of a galaxy, and the spiral in the center of a sunflower. Math was essential to everything from the first wireless radio transmissions to the successful landing of rovers on Mars. But where does math get its power?" Astrophysicist and writer Mario Livio, along with a colorful cast of mathematicians, physicists, and engineers, follow math from Pythagoras to Einstein and beyond, all leading to the ultimate riddle: Is math an invention or a discovery? Humankind's clever trick, or the language of the universe? Whether we think we're good with numbers or not, we all use math in our daily lives. The Great Math Mystery sheds fascinating light on how math works in our brains and ponders the ultimate mystery of why it works so well when decoding the universe.

Dangerous Knowledge: The Enigma

   2007    Science
brilliant mathematicians whose genius has profoundly affected us, but which tragically drove them insane and eventually led to them all committing suicide. Kurt Gödel, the introverted confidant of Einstein, proved that there would always be problems which were outside human logic. His life ended in a sanatorium where he starved himself to death. Finally, Alan Turing, the great Bletchley Park code breaker, father of computer science and homosexual, died trying to prove that some things are fundamentally unprovable.
Series: Dangerous knowledge

Fermat Last Theorem

   1996    Science
The Pythagorean Theorem is simple: x2 + y2 = z2. In this form, the equation can be solved. But what if the 2 is replaced with any positive integer greater than 2? Would the equation still be solvable? More than 300 years ago, amateur mathematician Pierre de Fermat said no, and claimed he could prove it. Unfortunately, the book margin in which he left this prophecy was too small to contain his thinking. Fermat's Last Theorem has since baffled mathematicians armed with the most advanced calculators and computers. Andrew Wiles methodically worked in near isolation to determine the proof for this seemingly simple equation.

Weirder and Weirder

   2018    Science
Dr Hannah Fry explores a paradox at the heart of modern maths, discovered by Bertrand Russell, which undermines the very foundations of logic that all of maths is built on. These flaws suggest that maths isn't a true part of the universe but might just be a human language - fallible and imprecise. However, Hannah argues that Einstein's theoretical equations, such as E=mc2 and his theory of general relativity, are so good at predicting the universe that they must be reflecting some basic structure in it. This idea is supported by Kurt Godel, who proved that there are parts of maths that we have to take on faith.
Hannah then explores what maths can reveal about the fundamental building blocks of the universe - the subatomic, quantum world. The maths tells us that particles can exist in two states at once, and yet quantum physics is at the core of photosynthesis and therefore fundamental to most of life on earth - more evidence of discovering mathematical rules in nature. But if we accept that maths is part of the structure of the universe, there are two main problems: firstly, the two main theories that predict and describe the universe - quantum physics and general relativity - are actually incompatible; and secondly, most of the maths behind them suggests the likelihood of something even stranger - multiple universes.
We may just have to accept that the world really is weirder than we thought, and Hannah concludes that while we have invented the language of maths, the structure behind it all is something we discover. And beyond that, it is the debate about the origins of maths that has had the most profound consequences: it has truly transformed the human experience, giving us powerful new number systems and an understanding that now underpins the modern world.
Series: Magic Numbers
Eden: Untamed Planet

Eden: Untamed Planet

2021  Nature
Shine a Light

Shine a Light

2008  Art
Explained

Explained

2018  Technology
Through the Wormhole

Through the Wormhole

2011  Science
Prehistoric America

Prehistoric America

2003  Nature
Vegan

Vegan

2020  Culture