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.
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.
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.
...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 http://www.ouw.co.uk/products/XM002_DVDSERIES.shtm.
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.
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!
...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!
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!
As sporting glories continue in Beijing with the Paralympics taking up where the Olympics left off, many of us have marvelled at the architecture almost as much as at the sporting achievements. One of the Olympic venues, the National Aquatic Centre or Water Cube, seems to be sliced from a giant foam of bubbles, and it turns out mathematics is responsible for this amazing structure.