Renowned cosmologist Max Tegmark will take us on a journey through some of the greatest mysteries of our existence, and through the physics, astronomy and mathematics that are the foundation of his work.
Why are most manhole covers round? Sure it makes them easy to roll, and slide into place in any alignment. But there’s another, more compelling reason, involving a peculiar geometric property of circles and other shapes. Marc Chamberland explains curves of constant width and Barbier’s theorem.
From a bee’s hexagonal honeycomb to the elliptical paths of planets, symmetry has long been recognized as a vital quality of nature. Einstein saw symmetry hidden in the fabric of space and time. The brilliant Emmy Noether proved that symmetry is the mathematical flower of deeply rooted physical law. And today’s theorists are pursuing an even more exotic symmetry that, mathematically speaking, could be nature’s final fundamental symmetry: supersymmetry.
Dr Hannah Fry explores the limits of our control, from dangerous miscalculations to creating and spotting fake videos, and questions how far we should be going with our mathematical skills. A gravity-defying BMX stunt kick-starts the debate around trusting the numbers, and launches us into an investigation of just how sure we can be about anything in our messy world. Together with maths comedian Matt Parker, Hannah uses flaming balloons and gigantic slices of melting cheese to get to the bottom of the guesswork used in real world calculations. A visiting drone zips through the corridors of the historic Royal Institution building, introducing the mother of all drones, a human-sized machine that delivers urgent parcels, and we welcome the team designing driverless helicopters and buying up London rooftops to prepare for the future. But these physical challenges are just the beginning of the debate on handing control over to machines. Hannah explores whether human jurors or robots make fairer decisions, and welcomes Atima Lui, who is on a mission to design the most unbiased facial detection software in the world, which will say goodbye to the 'fast track for white people' at automatic passport gates. Hannah dives into the issues around privacy in our modern world, with Glow Up make-up star Tiffany Hunt making a member of the audience invisible to CCTV, while Hannah explores the truth behind cookies and anonymity online. Finally, she delves into the world of fake news, to separate the truth from the lies. Leading deep fake creators team up with the Christmas Lectures to create a television first – a custom-made deep fake video of a child in the audience, highlighting our ability to use maths to warp reality however we please. Hannah ultimately explores who the real winners are, in an escalating arms race of mathematical tricks.
One deck. Fifty-two cards. How many arrangements? Let's put it this way: Any time you pick up a well shuffled deck, you are almost certainly holding an arrangement of cards that has never before existed and might not exist again. Yannay Khaikin explains how factorials allow us to pinpoint the exact (very large) number of permutations in a standard deck of cards.
When ancient Greece fell into decline, mathematical progress stagnated as Europe entered the Dark Ages, but in the East mathematics reached new heights. Du Sautoy explores how maths helped build imperial China and discovers how the symbol for the number zero was invented in India. He also looks at the Middle Eastern invention of algebra and how mathematicians such as Fibonacci spread Eastern knowledge to the West.