Plus Blog

September 30, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Higher dimensions on DVD

An excellent series of nine films taking you into the fourth dimension is now freely available online and cheaply available on DVD. Using superb graphics and clear, concise, no-frills presentation, the series starts with a very basic introduction to projections, then steps from two dimensions up into three and then four, and ends up with some quite sophisticated - and very pretty - geometric objects and concepts. Everyone, from complete novice to university students, will find something interesting in this series, and at 13 minutes length each, the films are a great resource for the class room. The website contains detailed background info on each episode. Go have a look, it's well worth it!

posted by Plus @ 3:43 PM


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September 29, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008

Maths on telly and radio

BBC Four will launch a new three-part TV series on maths at 9pm this coming Monday the 6th of October. In The story of maths Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford mathematician and one of the UK's finest maths popularisers, describes the often surprising lives of the great mathematicians, explains the development of the key mathematical ideas and shows how — in a multitude of unusual ways — those ideas underpin the science, technology and culture that shape our world. The first episode will look at the contributions from the ancient Greeks.

To get you into the mood, have a look at du Sautoy's Plus articles The prime number lottery, The music of the primes, and Beckham in his prime number.

If you prefer the radio, then tune into BBC Radio 4's In our time on Thursday the 9th of October at 9am and again at 9.30pm. Melvyn Bragg together with experts including John D Barrow will discuss Gödel's infamous incompleteness theorem.

posted by Plus @ 11:46 AM


At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think "The story of maths" on BBC 4, will be viewable in some format for those outside the UK?

I believe Simon Singh's "Fermat's Last Theorem" documentary originally aired on BBC, but was distributed to PBS US. I enjoyed it so much, I went out and bought the book. It would be nice to listen/watch these intelligent programs in a more timely fashion, rather than several years later :-)

I've been able to download a few BBC mp3 files and listen to them on the go.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds very interesting! Is it possible to view BBC4 without living in the UK?

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Plus said...

As far as we can tell there's no easy way to watch BBC Four from abroad, but we're trying to find out how to get hold of the programme. We'll let you know when we know....

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Plus said...

...and you may be interested to know that one of du Sautoy's previous programmes, The music of the primes, is available on DVD from the Open University at

At 6:27 AM, Blogger westius said...

Check out this link for some interesting info on watching the BBC iPlayer outside of the UK.

In summary, you have to be a little bit dodgy to do it, but it can be done.

It's also likely that this show will pop up on youtube at some stage.

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Supertelly said...

More recently on the excellent BBC4 there was a very interesting chemistry programme - I can't remember the name but it was like a beginner's guide, very good TV.

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September 25, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! Joyeux Anniversaire! Suk San Wan Keut! Sun Yat Fai Lok! Hartelijk gefeliciteerd! Felichan Naskightagon! And Happy Birthday to Google in the other 93-plus languages it speaks!

As the web search engine Google celebrates its 10th birthday it is hard to imagine life online without it. It has become such an indispensable tool that we don't just search for something any more, we "google" it, as recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. What many people don't realise is that Google's rise to become one of the most successful search engines on the web today is due to the mathematical algorithm PageRank, devised by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, the founders of Google. This algorithm not only decides which webpages match your search criteria (which all search engines do), but also which are more important and returns these at the top of the results.



posted by Plus @ 12:14 PM


At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy birthday google!!!!!!!

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September 23, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More evidence of the intrinsic beauty of maths, this time shown in a lovely slideshow from the BBC, narrated by mathematician Lasse Rempe from the University of Liverpool.

Rempe works in the area of dynamical systems: systems that change over time and can be found everywhere from the stockmarket to the weather. In the slideshow, he explains how dynamical systems can be generated from very simple polynomials yet produce extremely complex behaviour, and how these systems can be graphically represented by such beautiful images.

As John Barrow told us in our first image-enhanced Plus podcast Cosmic Imagery, mathematical images such as these have actually been responsible for changing science and how we see the world around us . So sit back with your coffee and enjoy the shows!

You can read more about dynamical systems and mathematics and art on Plus.

posted by Plus @ 10:41 AM


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September 18, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008

...and yesterday was brought to you by the number 54, thanks to the Mathematical Association of America's NumberADay blog. Every working day they post a number and a biography of its interesting properties.

Today's number 11,185,272 is the number of decimal digits in the 46th known Mersenne prime, discovered on Sept. 6, 2008 (you can read more in Prime record broken? on Plus).

54 might seems less significant, but in fact thanks to the MAA Plus now knows that it is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of 3 squares in 3 ways, the number of colored squares on a Rubik’s cube, and is a nonadecagonal (19-gonal) number!

posted by Plus @ 2:12 PM


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September 16, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's lunchtime, and I'm waiting in the cafe queue to buy a sandwich along with everyone else. What a lot of sandwiches... Imagine if everyone piled their sandwiches one on top of another... I wonder how high the mighty tower of sandwiches might be? Let's see... 60 million people in the UK, say 1 in 8 is having a sandwich right now, each sandwich might be about 3cm thick including filing, so that's... over 200km high!

You might say I'm thinking too much about sandwiches, but I'm actually exercising my number sense. Which, along with allowing me to make quick guesses about how big things are or how many there might be, also might be helping me get better at calculus and algebra. Researchers Michèle Mazzocco, Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda, from John Hopkins University, have shown that being good at formal mathematics is linked to having a good innate number sense. See, I'm not waiting in the sandwich queue, I'm studying!



posted by Plus @ 12:21 PM


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