Archives for August 2011

The Finale - callbacks TOMORROW at 10am

Joanna Witt - BBC Producer | 11:00 UK time, Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Just a quick note to remind you that we will be making callbacks to the first people who successfully completed the Ultimate Challenge TOMORROW from 10am.

If you think you were one of the first people to get in touch with us then make sure you have your phone switched on and your workings to hand as we will need to ask you a few questions. Once we have confirmed eligibility and availability we will be able to announce the three finalists who will be joining us at a secret location next weekend!

Watch this space!


Update on The Ultimate Challenge

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Adrian Hon - Gamesmaster Adrian Hon - Gamesmaster | 11:36 UK time, Friday, 19 August 2011

We've got a quick update for you all on how the Ultimate Challenge (our 84 page book of puzzles) is proceeding: 

We can confirm that a number of people have made contact with us and appear to have successfully completed the Ultimate Challenge. Since we won't be making callbacks and eligibility checks until September 1st, we won't be able to announce the list of finalists until the first week in September.

Until then, if you haven't solved it yet, do keep at it! And if you're stuck, there are some fantastic player-created resources at the Crack the Code wiki (thanks to everyone there who contributed and set it up!).

The Ultimate Challenge is here!

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Adrian Hon - Gamesmaster Adrian Hon - Gamesmaster | 22:01 UK time, Wednesday, 10 August 2011

It's finally here. It's what you've been waiting for, across three programmes, four Flash games, 305 prime numbers, and 1024 postcards.
The Ultimate Challenge!

An excerpt from the Ultimate Challenge puzzle book

Two of the 84 pages from the Ultimate Challenge

A beautiful 84-page book of puzzles, ranging from easy Sudoku and mazes to the most fiendish codes and mathematical brainteasers. Not all of them are hard, and not all are easy, but you'll have to solve every single one of them - and figure out how they're all joined together - to enter our Finale and have a chance at wining the treasure.

 You can download the Ultimate Challenge as a PDF right now, but you'll need your three Codebreaker passwords to unlock it, by following the instructions here. And don't worry if you don't have them all - there's still time to get started!

 We're kicking things up a notch with this challenge (you could say it's exponentially more tricky)! So, while you might be tempted to be a hero and try and solve the Ultimate Challenge on your own, you might also find that things go a lot faster if you work together, whether that's with friends or colleagues at work, or on Facebook, Twitter with #bbccode, or other forums and wikis.

Excerpt from the Ultimate Challenge puzzle book

Another page from the Ultimate Challenge - but you'll need your three Codebreaker passwords to see them all!

Whatever road you take on this challenge, good luck - you'll need it!

(Also, don't forget to have a look over our FAQ and Terms and Conditions if you have any questions!)


The Final Frontier!

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Marcus du Sautoy Marcus du Sautoy | 21:00 UK time, Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A photo of The Code treasure sculpture

If you're one of the first three people to solve the final puzzle, you're in with a chance of meeting Marcus and winning this beautiful 3D-printed sculpture.

The Code might have come to an end but the Code Challenge is just hotting up. With the transmission of the third and final episode of the series you should now have all the clues in place to move on to the next stage of the competition. And the first three to crack this will get the chance to meet me and battle it out in a final round on the 10 September.

One of the most exciting things about making this series has been seeing how the Code Challenge has really got people actively involved in the content of the programmes. Mathematics is not a spectator sport and the interactive treasure hunt has provided a fantastic extra dimension to exploring the maths at the heart of our world. I never expected our prime number community challenge to be completed so quickly. Viewers came up with some really inventive ways to find primes: from the countdown clock at the launch of the Atlantis space shuttle which got held at 00:31 to finding people who'd got primes tattooed on their arms (well it was actually me who found that one).

One of the really exciting things about being a mathematician is having one of those "aha" moments where you suddenly make a breakthrough on a problem you've been working on for ages. It really is the buzz that I live for as a mathematician. It's been great to see that viewers have been having their own "aha" moments solving some of the trickier bits of the treasure hunt whether it was cracking the formula behind the puzzling dice in episode 2 or suddenly seeing numbers in the stars in episode 1.

It's always a bit sad to see the last programme go out in a series. When you make a TV show like this it really does become part of your life. We started filming the Code in February when we visited the Merker's mine with its extraordinary cubic salt crystals and we finished in mid-June when we witnessed the total eclipse of the moon in Cyprus. It's one of the real privileges of making TV to have the chance to visit so many fascinating locations during the months of filming. But we have been working on the programme for years before the first shots were taken, trying to find the best way to bring a very abstract subject like mathematics to life in a visual medium like TV. Although I get to be in front of the camera it must be recognised what an amazing team effort it is to make a TV series like The Code and I have had a great team of people to work with. Thank you to you all.

We hope you enjoyed the series and continue to have fun solving the puzzles. Good luck in the final push to get your hands on the treasure - I'll be meeting three of you in a month's time!


Week 3 Puzzle: Search Logic

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Matt Wieteska - Code Master Matt Wieteska - Code Master | 15:29 UK time, Tuesday, 9 August 2011

In this week's third and final episode of The Code, Marcus will be demonstrating the ability of maths to predict seemingly unpredictable events. From the identity of Jack the Ripper to the outbreak of the next flu epidemic, spotting the patterns that underpin events can allow us to produce accurate models of what will happen in the future. 

On his trip to their London offices, Marcus learns about how Google can correlate a rise in certain search terms with an oncoming outbreak of the flu virus, or the rise of a pop sensation. By working through these relationships logically, Google are able to produce startlingly accurate predictions of future global trends. 

It's this trip that has inspired our puzzle for week three. The puzzle below will test your ability to use logic and reasoning in order to deduce a currently unknown fact. We present: Search Logic. Get your pens and paper ready!

The grid below describes three people's internet searches: Ada, Bill and Chris. As you can see, each search took a certain amount of time. It's your job, using the information we've provided, to fill the grid in and answer the question at the bottom. 


Search Logic Grid



There were nine searches made in total. Each search was for one of the clues from one of the episodes of The Code. The nine searches were: 

Episode One: Pi, Stars, Cicadas

Episode Two: Bubbles, Hex, Dice

Episode Three: Search, Hand, Flock

Each person searched for one clue per episode. 

No search was repeated, either by the same person, or by a different person. 

Everyone's first searches were from different episodes. 

Episode Three's clues all took as many minutes to search for as there are letters in the search term. For example, "Three" would have taken five minutes. 

Bill searched for his Episode Three clip first.

Ada did not search for "search".

The person who searched for "hand" also searched for "bubbles".

The "stars" search took 15 minutes and did not occur at the same time as the "hexes" search. 

The person who searched for "cicadas" and "dice" spent 18 minutes in total searching. 

If all the above is true, who searched for "Pi"? 

Welcome to Week Three

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Marcus du Sautoy Marcus du Sautoy | 16:40 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011


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In programme three the true power of The Code is unleashed in perhaps the ultimate challenge: predicting the future. If time travel were possible, it would be easy – I could just come back from next year and tell you what happened. Sadly we don’t yet know how to travel through time, and many of the ways people claim to predict the future, such as gazing into crystal balls or casting horoscopes, are complete mumbo-jumbo. If you really want to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, next year, or far into the next millennium, your best bet is mathematics.

To prove my confidence in the power of maths to look into the future I was even prepared to put my life at the mercy of The Code. Ever since we started making the series, there was talk of a death-defying stunt that I would be subjected to. The stunts varied from: driving a car at the right speed round a loop the loop so I didn’t fall off, standing in front of a wrecking ball as it swung towards me, diving off a bridge attached to an untested bungee chord. In the end we went for The Ball of Death. I had to calculate the trajectory of a massive ball as it was shot down a ramp. Using my maths I had to work out where to stand to avoid being crushed by the ball. Ominously the plan was to make this the last day of filming…just in case I got my sums wrong. See how well I did in this, the final episode.

You too will have to master the maths of projectiles if you are going to make it to the end of the Code Challenge. Our online game for this episode, Kingdom of Catapults, requires you to predict the path of flying fruit to knock out an invading army that wants to capture your castle. Use your maths to defeat the enemy and you’ll release another clue on the way to cracking the Code Challenge.

Another game that involves spotting patterns to predict the future is rock, paper, scissors. To see how good the champions are at reading patterns in their opponents we travelled to the Raven Lounge in downtown Philadelphia to film at the famous Rock Paper Scissors League Championship that is held there each week.

Although it didn’t make the cut I was also entered into the competition to put my own pattern searching abilities to the test. Each competitor needs their own individual RPS name to enter the league. Regulars include Paper Tiger, Slanted Scissors and Silly Putty. I decided to try some academic intimidation and plumped for The Professor. I got through several rounds but eventually met my match in the quarter-finals where I got knocked out by Dick Nasty.

Dick Nasty, Marcus's opponent at the Rock, Paper, Scissors Qualifying League in Philadelphia.

Dick Nasty, Marcus's opponent at the Rock, Paper, Scissors Qualifying League in Philadelphia.

It was when he put out his hand to commiserate me on my exit from the competition that I noticed a rather curious tattoo on his arm: a collection of squares of different sizes corresponding to the numbers 1,1,2,3,5,8,13 with a Fibonacci spiral traced through them. If I was going to be knocked out of the competition it was no dishonour to lose to someone who was prepared to mark his body permanently with the wonders of The Code.

I hope you enjoyed the series and best of luck with the rest of the challenge. After this episode you should be able to find all the clues you need to unlock the second stage, and from there you could be in with a chance to get into the final!

Prime Number Challenge: Third Milestone Smashed!

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Adrian Hon - Gamesmaster Adrian Hon - Gamesmaster | 15:22 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

They are the few, the proud, the daring. Neither sun nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night could stay these people from the swift completion of their appointed task - to find and photograph all the prime number between 2 and 2011 - all 305 of them.  

The Prime Hunters - we salute you and congratulate you! Your dedication and organisation has led to you solving this challenge even before the show has finished - a truly impressive feat.

For your efforts, here is the third and final community challenge clue:


This should be entered in using the sixth hand on the Episode 3 codebreaker (released on Tuesday). 

But there's an even bigger challenge coming up - the Ultimate Challenge - and it's going to test you as nothing else has so far in The Code. You're going to need all your wits about you to succeed, and we certainly wouldn't discourage you from helping one another and sharing information!

(And as promised, we'll be putting a collage of the best photos on this blog soon!)

Welcome to Week Two

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Marcus du Sautoy Marcus du Sautoy | 15:30 UK time, Tuesday, 2 August 2011


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The second programme of The Code, Nature’s Building Blocks, explores the shapes and geometry that make up the natural world and reveals how once we understand the mathematics, we can begin to shape our own environment. Far from being a chaotic mess, the extraordinary discovery is that nature's blueprint is highly mathematical. It’s full of hexagons and circles, cubes and icosahedrons. Even the outwardly messy world of the forest or jungle is actually built from the geometric world of fractals.

Once you’ve watched the programme you’ll be ready to crack the next stage of our Code Challenge which includes the intriguing: Master of Mosaics. This game is all about spotting the symmetries hidden inside a sequence of beautiful tiles that conceal the fabled Fyodorov family vault. Maybe it's because I spend my life researching the fascinating world of symmetry that this is one of my favourite games of the Code Challenge. Get to the end and another crucial clue will be unlocked.

When we started to make The Code the producers asked me where I would like to go to capture the dramatic examples of mathematics at work . Perhaps I should have said the Bahamas or Hawaii but instead I said that I’d always wanted to go to the northern tip of Northern Ireland to see one of the mathematical wonders of the natural world: the Giant’s Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

I’d seen pictures of the thousands of strange hexagonal columns that cover the coast like a beehive but nothing prepares you for witnessing such beautiful geometry up close. Although filming was absolutely freezing and I almost got swept out to sea by a freak wave, the Giant’s Causeway is a dramatic backdrop to the opening of programme two and it conveys the powerful message that the most efficient solutions to nature's problems are often mathematical.

But our trip to the Giant’s Causeway was probably eclipsed by a visit we made towards the end of the programme to Pixar studios to find out how the film-makers are using mathematics to create the virtual worlds of films like Up and Cars. I think most people’s impression is that Pixar is populated by artists meticulously illustrating the movies frame by frame. But surprisingly, a good proportion of the employees are more versed in the mathematics of fractal geometry than paints and brushes. The great discovery of the 20th century is that the mathematics of fractal shapes is the code behind the way many things form: from trees to mountains, from clouds to waterfalls.

Marcus du Sautoy at Pixar

Most exciting of all was getting a sneak preview of one of Pixar’s new movies. It was so confidential that we weren’t allowed to point our cameras anywhere near the storyboards hanging on the walls and we were all sworn to secrecy. But I can tell you that mathematics will once again be one of the key ingredients in bringing those pictures to life.

I hope you enjoy the second programme and best of luck with this week's puzzles. You're nearly halfway through the hunt, keep going!

Week 2 Puzzle: Strange Dice

Matt Wieteska - Code Master Matt Wieteska - Code Master | 16:01 UK time, Monday, 1 August 2011


In this week’s episode of The Code, Marcus explores the mathematics of shapes and nature. In particular, he’ll be taking a look at the platonic solids, the only five regular polyhedra, and how they can be found in a number of surprising places. For most of us, its the dice Marcus uses to illustrate these beautiful, symmetrical shapes that will be most familiar.
In the show, Marcus uses a standard set of dice, each one in the shape of a platonic solids, with 4, 6, 8, 12 and 20 sides respectively.
The numbers on each face of the dice follows a very particular pattern. If you add together the numbers of each pair of opposite faces, you’ll get the same number for them all - and that number is n+1, where n equals the number of sides on that die. So the numbers on opposite faces of the six-sided die add up to seven, while those on the twenty-sided die add up to twenty-one.

This brings us to our puzzle. Below, we have the nets (the 2D patterns for creating 3D objects) of six dice. The numbers on each face, however, don’t follow the same patterns as standard dice: it’s not based on the sum of opposite faces, but on another, hidden, formula.

You have here three six-sided dice and three eight-sided dice. The three eight-sided dice follow the same pattern as the three six-sided dice. We want you to work out the pattern and figure out what number should be placed at the question mark.

Enter your answer into the Episode 2 Codebreaker using the the fourth ‘question hand’. Good Luck!
The Code: Strange Dice Puzzle



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