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Category:
**Math**

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.

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

How many ways can you arrange a deck of cards?

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.

Tails You Win: The Science of Chance

Professor David Spiegelhalter tries to pin down what chance is and how it works in the real world. A blend of wit and wisdom, animation, graphics and gleeful nerdery is applied to the joys of chance and the mysteries of probability, the vital branch of mathematics that gives us a handle on what might happen in the future. How can you maximise your chances of living till you're 100? Why do many of us experience so many spooky coincidences? Should I take an umbrella? These are just some of the everyday questions the film tackles as it moves between Cambridge, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Reading. Spiegelhalter discovers One Million Random Digits, a book full of hidden patterns and shapes, introduces us to the unit called the micromort (a one-in-a-million chance of dying), and uses the latest infographics to demonstrate how life expectancy has increased in his lifetime and how it is affected by our lifestyle choices - drinking, obesity, smoking and exercise.

2012 • Math

How to Bend the Rules

Dr Hannah Fry reveals how data-gobbling algorithms have taken over our lives and now control almost everything we do, without us being aware of it. Pitching the UK speed-cubing champion against a machine in the opening seconds of the lecture, Hannah sets the pace for a rapid voyage through this superhuman world. Hannah teams up with famed YouTuber Tom Scott to create a viral video and decipher YouTube's secret algorithm, comes face to face with four-legged guests to put animal image recognition machines to the test, and reveals how the NHS is matching organ donors in chains across the country to save hundreds of lives. But the breakthroughs are not restricted to the real world. Bafta award-winning special guests reveal the secrets of CGI in films such as The Avengers and Lord of the Rings, and supersized laser illusions bring the Royal Institution to life. An unexpected feathery guest opens our eyes to a new type of coding, where computers can be trained like animals using tasty rewards, with maths comedian Matt Parker and computing expert Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon bringing the topic to life. Finally, Hannah reveals how we've all been training up Google's AI in this way for years without realising it, and discovers how Google Health is using big data to give doctors a helping hand. The power of algorithms is undeniable. Hannah ultimately discovers how we can bend the world to our will and make anything possible, with a bit of mathematical thinking.

**2/3** •
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: Secrets and Lies - The Hidden Power of Maths •
2019 •
Math

The Illusion of Certainty: Risk, Probability, and Chance

Stuff happens. The weather forecast says it’s sunny, but you just got drenched. You got a flu shot—but you’re sick in bed with the flu. Your best friend from Boston met your other best friend from San Francisco. Coincidentally. What are the odds? Risk, probability, chance, coincidence—they play a significant role in the way we make decisions about health, education, relationships, and money. But where does this data come from and what does it really mean?

World Science Festival • 2015 • Math

The last banana: A thought experiment in probability

Imagine a game of dice: if the biggest number rolled is one, two, three, or four, player 1 wins. If the biggest number rolled is five or six, player 2 wins. Who has the best probability of winning the game? Leonardo Barichello explains how probability holds the answer to this seemingly counterintuitive puzzle.

The mathematical secrets of Pascal’s triangle

Pascal’s triangle, which at first may just look like a neatly arranged stack of numbers, is actually a mathematical treasure trove. But what about it has so intrigued mathematicians the world over?