BBC Radio 3 The Essay: Literature and Mathematics

Marcus du Sautoy reveals that writers, just like musicians and visual artists, have found ways to use maths to structure their writing. Not only can you find mathematical ideas discussed in books such as Ian McEwan’s Solar or Bonnie Greer’s Entropy; but you can also find maths in the structure of many famous literary works, notably the recent Booker winner The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, whose chapters are each half the length of the previous one, causing the pace of the novel to accelerate towards the end.”


Theorists Draw Closer to Perfect Coloring by Natalie Wolchover

Theorists Draw Closer to Perfect Coloring

‘A theorem for coloring a large class of “perfect” mathematical networks could ease the way for a long-sought general coloring proof.’

Quanta Magazine.

“Culture and Anarchy” with Melvyn Bragg

Culture and Anarchy

“In 1869 the poet and critic Matthew Arnold published Culture and Anarchy, a series of essays in which he argued passionately that culture – ‘the best which has been thought and said’ – was a powerful force for good. In this first programme Melvyn Bragg visits the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, where Arnold first unveiled his ideas on the subject, and discovers how Arnold’s ideas were refined and rejected by later thinkers.”

BBC Radio 4.

Do black holes have no hair? Stephen Hawking, Reith Lecture

BBC 2016 Reith Lecture number 1

An illustrated companion to Prof Stephen Hawking’s first Reith lecture about black holes.

While Prof Hawking describes the history of scientific thinking about black holes, the artist Andrew Park draws the key points of the lecture in chalk on a blackboard.

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time – Pi, with Melvyn Bragg


“Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the most detailed number in nature. In the Bible’s description of Solomon’s temple it comes out as three, Archimedes calculated it to the equivalent of 14 decimal places and today’s super computers have defined it with an extraordinary degree of accuracy to its first 1.4 trillion digits. It is the longest number in nature and we only need its first 32 figures to calculate the size of the known universe within the accuracy of one proton. We are talking about Pi, 3.14159 etc, the number which describes the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference. How has something so commonplace in nature been such a challenge for maths? And what does the oddly ubiquitous nature of Pi tell us about the hidden complexities of our world?”

Mathematical Impressions: The Golden Ratio by George Hart

The golden ratio  (1.61803 … ) is greatly hyped, partly for its beautiful mathematical properties but also for nonsensical reasons. Distinguishing between the two requires understanding that mathematics is about structures and relationships, not just numbers in isolation. When the golden ratio truly appears (not just some number in its approximate neighborhood), we can find patterns that account for it.”

Simons Foundation.