Mathematical formulas can be found in the arrangement of seeds on a sunflower, the structure of the spirals in the shells of certain marine animals, and the distribution of leaves around a plant stem. These formulas recur in nature from snowflakes to the stripes on a zebra.
By our third year, most of us will have learned to count. Once we know how, it seems as if there would be nothing to stop us counting forever. But, while infinity might seem like an perfectly innocent idea, keep counting and you enter a paradoxical world where nothing is as it seems.
In Egypt, professor Marcus du Sautoy uncovers use of a decimal system based on ten fingers of the hand and discovers that the way we tell the time is based on the Babylonian Base 60 number system. In Greece, he looks at the contributions of some of the giants of mathematics including Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras, who is credited with beginning the transformation of mathematics from a counting tool into the analytical subject of today.
Professor Marcus du Sautoy concludes his investigation into the history of mathematics with a look at some of the great unsolved problems that confronted mathematicians in the 20th century. After exploring Georg Cantor's work on infinity and Henri Poincare's work on chaos theory, he sees how mathematics was itself thrown into chaos by the discoveries of Kurt Godel and Paul Cohen, before completing his journey by considering some unsolved problems of maths today, including the Riemann Hypothesis.
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.
Documentary that reveals the secret story behind one of the greatest intellectual feats of World War II, a feat that gave birth to the digital age. In 1943 a 24-year-old maths student and a GPO engineer combined to hack into Hitler's personal super code machine - not Enigma but an even tougher system, which he called his 'secrets writer'. Their break turned the Battle of Kursk, powered the D-day landings and orchestrated the end of the conflict in Europe. But it was also to be used during the Cold War - which meant both men's achievements were hushed up and never officially recognised.
2011 • Math