Weirder and Weirder • 2018 • episode "3/3" Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry's Mysterious World of Maths

Category: Math
Download:

Hannah explores a paradox at the heart of modern maths, discovered by Bertrand Russell, which undermines the very foundations of logic that all of maths is built on. These flaws suggest that maths isn't a true part of the universe but might just be a human language - fallible and imprecise. However, Hannah argues that Einstein's theoretical equations, such as E=mc2 and his theory of general relativity, are so good at predicting the universe that they must be reflecting some basic structure in it. This idea is supported by Kurt Godel, who proved that there are parts of maths that we have to take on faith. Hannah then explores what maths can reveal about the fundamental building blocks of the universe - the subatomic, quantum world. The maths tells us that particles can exist in two states at once, and yet quantum physics is at the core of photosynthesis and therefore fundamental to most of life on earth - more evidence of discovering mathematical rules in nature. But if we accept that maths is part of the structure of the universe, there are two main problems: firstly, the two main theories that predict and describe the universe - quantum physics and general relativity - are actually incompatible; and secondly, most of the maths behind them suggests the likelihood of something even stranger - multiple universes. We may just have to accept that the world really is weirder than we thought, and Hannah concludes that while we have invented the language of maths, the structure behind it all is something we discover. And beyond that, it is the debate about the origins of maths that has had the most profound consequences: it has truly transformed the human experience, giving us powerful new number systems and an understanding that now underpins the modern world.

Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry's Mysterious World of Maths • 0 • 3 episodes •

Numbers as God

Hannah goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks to find out why they were so fascinated by the connection between beautiful music and maths. The patterns our ancestors found in music are all around us, from the way a sunflower stores its seeds to the number of petals in a flower. Even the shapes of some of the smallest structures in nature, such as viruses, seem to follow the rules of maths. All strong evidence for maths being discovered. But there are those who claim maths is all in our heads and something we invented. To find out if this is true, Hannah has her brain scanned. It turns out there is a place in all our brains where we do maths, but that doesn't prove its invented. Experiments with infants, who have never had a maths lesson in their lives, suggests we all come hardwired to do maths. Far from being a creation of the human mind, this is evidence for maths being something we discover. Then along comes the invention of zero to help make counting more convenient and the creation of imaginary numbers, and the balance is tilted in the direction of maths being something we invented. The question of whether maths is invented or discovered just got a whole lot more difficult to answer.

2018 • Math

Expanded Horizons

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.

2018 • Math

Weirder and Weirder

Hannah explores a paradox at the heart of modern maths, discovered by Bertrand Russell, which undermines the very foundations of logic that all of maths is built on. These flaws suggest that maths isn't a true part of the universe but might just be a human language - fallible and imprecise. However, Hannah argues that Einstein's theoretical equations, such as E=mc2 and his theory of general relativity, are so good at predicting the universe that they must be reflecting some basic structure in it. This idea is supported by Kurt Godel, who proved that there are parts of maths that we have to take on faith. Hannah then explores what maths can reveal about the fundamental building blocks of the universe - the subatomic, quantum world. The maths tells us that particles can exist in two states at once, and yet quantum physics is at the core of photosynthesis and therefore fundamental to most of life on earth - more evidence of discovering mathematical rules in nature. But if we accept that maths is part of the structure of the universe, there are two main problems: firstly, the two main theories that predict and describe the universe - quantum physics and general relativity - are actually incompatible; and secondly, most of the maths behind them suggests the likelihood of something even stranger - multiple universes. We may just have to accept that the world really is weirder than we thought, and Hannah concludes that while we have invented the language of maths, the structure behind it all is something we discover. And beyond that, it is the debate about the origins of maths that has had the most profound consequences: it has truly transformed the human experience, giving us powerful new number systems and an understanding that now underpins the modern world.

2018 • Math

You might also like

To Infinity and Beyond

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.

4/4The Story of MathsMath

Prediction

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.

3/3The CodeMath

The Genius of the East

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.

2/4The Story of MathsMath

Part 1

Wherever we find patterns and symmetry in nature, we also find that nature conforms to certain rules. Rules that combine elegance with efficiency. Rules that shape trees and river estuaries alike, and that continue to baffle scientists by their often unfathomable ubiquity.

1/2Nature's Mathematics • 2017 • Math

The Joy of Logic

A sharp, witty, mind-expanding and exuberant foray into the world of logic with computer scientist Professor Dave Cliff.

Math

The Joy of Data

A witty and mind-expanding exploration of data, with mathematician Dr Hannah Fry. This high-tech romp reveals what data is and how it is captured, stored, shared and made sense of. Fry tells the story of the engineers of the data age, people most of us have never heard of despite the fact they brought about a technological and philosophical revolution. For Hannah, the joy of data is all about spotting patterns. Hannah sees data as the essential bridge between two universes - the tangible, messy world that we see and the clean, ordered world of maths, where everything can be captured beautifully with equations. The film reveals the connection between Scrabble scores and online movie streaming, explains why a herd of dairy cows are wearing pedometers, and uncovers the network map of Wikipedia. What's the mystery link between marmalade and One Direction? The film hails the contribution of Claude Shannon, the mathematician and electrical engineer who, in an attempt to solve the problem of noisy telephone lines, devised a way to digitise all information. Shannon singlehandedly launched the 'information age'. Meanwhile, Britain's National Physical Laboratory hosts a race between its young apprentices in order to demonstrate how and why data moves quickly around modern data networks. It's all thanks to the brilliant technique first invented there in the 1960s by Welshman Donald Davies - packet switching. But what of the future? Should we be worried by the pace of change and what our own data could be used for? Ultimately, Fry concludes, data has empowered all of us. We must have machines at our side if we're to find patterns in the modern-day data deluge. But, Fry believes, regardless of AI and machine learning, it will always take us to find the meaning in them.

2016 • Math