Welcome to Week One!
The magicicada is an extraordinary species of cicada that uses my favourite numbers in mathematics, the primes, for its evolutionary survival. To find them we travelled to Nashville Tennessee, home usually to the sound of blue grass and honky tonk. But every 13 years the banjos and basses get drowned out by the chorus of an insect that has fascinated me ever since I became a mathematician. It might seem strange for a mathematician to be interested in bugs but these cicadas are rather special. Only found in the eastern states of north America the cicadas exploit mathematics to help them to survive. They appear periodically but only emerge after a prime number of years. In the case of the brood appearing around Nashville: every 13 years.
I've read about their story, seen their pictures, watched videos of them emerging from the ground. But this year was the first time I've been lucky enough to see them for real. Maybe the fact that 2011 is prime number year was a good omen.
As part of the Code Challenge you will also need to master your primes to survive, not in the forest around Nashville, but in the kitchen of Chef Mersenne in our addictive game Prima Pizzeria. Make it to a certain point and you’ll get an important clue to help you crack the Code Challenge. And remember to keep on sending us pictures of prime numbers in the environment. We’re hoping to get all the primes up to 2011. You can also email pictures to email@example.com.
After Nashville it was back up to Brooklyn to come face to face with one of the icons of the mathematical world: the nautilus. The shell of the nautilus is such a thing of beauty that it has become the poster boy for the world of mathematics. But it’s only by turning the dimensions of the shell into numbers that we can reveal the secret to how it grows. Although I’ve seen countless images of the shell, my trip to Brooklyn was the first time I’d seen the animal that actually lives inside the shell. A strange ancient octopus that looked like one of the ood from Doctor Who.
The Code mascot - Fibunnacci - capured by Marcus.
Although he didn’t make the cut there is another animal that deserves a mention. We adopted a very friendly rabbit as The Code mascot who kept us company while filming a very cold sequence at the Sunkenkirk stone circle in Cumbria about the number pi hidden inside all circles. We named him appropriately enough Fibunnacci.
Enjoy the first programme and best of luck with the treasure hunt!