Dice with questionmarks

Solve the biggest maths mysteries this Christmas with the RI Christmas lectures.

In recent times we have seen some of the great mathematical mysteries solved — Fermat's Last Theorem was proved by Andrew Wiles, the Four Colour Theorem and Kepler's Conjecture succumbed to the power of computing, and Perelman famously (or infamously) seems to have proved the Poincaré conjecture. But there is still much work left to be done, as Marcus du Sautoy will reveal in THE NUM8ER MY5TERIES, his Christmas Lectures for the RI which will be screened on Channel Five over Christmas. The lectures promise to be a grand tour of the world of mathematics and will reveal that maths is still full of enigmas that mathematicians are struggling to solve, and how some of these mysteries could be worth $1 million to those who crack them.

Du Sautoy, who is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Wadham College, will explore some of the big themes in mathematics including numbers, shapes, chance, codes and chaos. "I became a mathematician because I attended the first Christmas Lectures dedicated to mathematics in 1978 and saw, for the first time, what mathematics is really about," he said. "It thrives as much on the enigmas we haven't explained as on the things we know. I hope that this year's lectures will inspire the next generation of mathematicians who will crack the mathematical mysteries that still remain unsolved".

The first mystery with a million dollar price tag is the Riemann Hypothesis. In his first lecture, The curious incident of the never-ending numbers, Marcus explains why prime numbers aren't just important to mathematicians. They are also the key to Real Madrid's success and the survival of insects in the Forests of North America. He goes on to reveal how to use mathematics to fake a Jackson Pollock, increase your chances in gambling, keep your secrets safe and predict the future in the rest of the lectures.

The RI Christmas Lectures, which serve as a forum for presenting scientific issues to young people, will be shown during peak-time as part of Five's Christmas schedule for the second year running. They will be broadcast over five nights, starting at 7.15pm on Christmas night, 25 December 2006. So when you have finished playing with your presents, why not sit back and enjoy a ride through through the amazing mathematical world.