Without us noticing, modern life has been taken over. Algorithms run everything from search engines on the internet to satnavs and credit card data security - they even help us travel the world, find love and save lives. Professor Marcus du Sautoy demystifies the hidden world of algorithms. By showing us some of the algorithms most essential to our lives, he reveals where these 2,000-year-old problem solvers came from, how they work, what they have achieved and how they are now so advanced they can even programme themselves.
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.
Marcus du Sautoy continues his exploration of the hidden numerical code that underpins all nature. This time it's the strange world of what happens next. Professor du Sautoy's odyssey starts with the lunar eclipse - once thought supernatural, now routinely predicted through the power of the code. But more intriguing is what the code can say about our future.
Hannah travels down the fastest zip wire in the world to learn more about Newton's ideas on gravity. His discoveries revealed the movement of the planets was regular and predictable. James Clerk Maxwell unified the ideas of electricity and magnetism, and explained what light was. As if that wasn't enough, he also predicted the existence of radio waves. His tools of the trade were nothing more than pure mathematics. All strong evidence for maths being discovered. But in the 19th century, maths is turned on its head when new types of geometry are invented. No longer is the kind of geometry we learned in school the final say on the subject. If maths is more like a game, albeit a complicated one, where we can change the rules, surely this points to maths being something we invent - a product of the human mind. To try and answer this question, Hannah travels to Halle in Germany on the trail of perhaps one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, Georg Cantor. He showed that infinity, far from being infinitely big, actually comes in different sizes, some bigger than others. This increasingly weird world is feeling more and more like something we've invented. But if that's the case, why is maths so uncannily good at predicting the world around us? Invented or discovered, this question just got a lot harder to answer.
2/3 • Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry's Mysterious World of Maths • 2018 • Math
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.