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Ramanujan: Dream of the possible

One of the most fascinating figures in the history of mathematics was Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught Indian genius who formed a remarkable relationship with the Cambridge mathematician GH Hardy. Ramanujan was interested in problems in number theory, which are often easy to state, but incredibly difficult to prove. One amazing thing about Ramanujan's work is that it still finds applications today, in areas you'd never imagine are linked to number theory. An example is the study of black holes, those gravitational monstrosities that lie at the centres of galaxies.

We will explore this surprising link in an upcoming episode, but for now we revisit a 2018 interview with mathematician Ken Ono (pictured above), who was an advisor and associate producer on the well-known film about Ramanujan, The man who knew infinity. Talking to Plus Editor Rachel Thomas, Ken explores just what made Ramanujan's work so special and the piece of mathematics that is relevant to black holes. Rachel talked to Ken at the Royal Society's celebration of the centenary of Ramanujan's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

You can also read an article accompanying this podcast, which looks at the mathematics relevant to black holes. For more about Ramanujan's mathematics, and Ken's research into it, see Ramanujan surprises again. To find out more about the Spirit of Ramanujan project, which Ken mentions in this episode, see here.

This content now forms part of our collaboration with the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INI) – you can find all the content from our collaboration here. The INI is an international research centre and our neighbour here on the University of Cambridge's maths campus. It attracts leading mathematical scientists from all over the world, and is open to all. Visit to find out more.

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