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A quirky look at five of the most important numbers in mathematics. Hear about the stark reality behind the imaginary number, try a slice of pi, find out about the natural beauty of the golden ratio, discover why some infinities are bigger than others, and see why nothing really matters. 




LISTEN AGAIN 15 min 




PRESENTER 







Simon Singh completed his Ph.D. in particle physics at the University of Cambridge CERN before joining the BBC's science department in 1990. He was a producer and director on programmes such as Tomorrow's World, Horizon and Earth Story. His documentary about the world's most notorious mathematical problem won a BAFTA and in 1997 he wrote a book on the same subject, entitled Fermat's Last Theorem, which was the first maths book to become a No.1 bestseller in Britain! In 1999 Simon published The Code Book, a history of codes and codebreaking. www.simonsingh.net











PROGRAMME DETAILS 





Programme 1: Zero
What's 2 minus 2? The answer is obvious, right? But not if you wore a tunic, no socks and lived in Ancient Greece. For strange as it sounds, 'nothing' had to be invented, and then it took thousands of years to catch on. More >>>
Programme 2: Pi
At its simplest, Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. At its most complex, it is an irrational number that cannot be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers and has a random decimal string of infinite length.
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Programme 3: The Golden Ratio
Divide any number in the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55) by the one before it and the answer is always close to 1.618 the Golden Ratio.
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Programme 4: The Imaginary 'i'
The imaginary number takes mathematics to another dimension. It was discovered in sixteenth century Italy at a time when being a mathematician was akin to being a modern day rock star. The puzzle of the day was: "If the square root of +1 is both +1 and 1, then what is the square root of 1?" More >>>
Programme 5: Infinity
Given the old maxim about an infinite number of monkeys and typewriters, one can assume that said simian digits will type up the following line from Hamlet an infinite number of times:
"I could confine myself to a nutshell and declare myself king of infinity".
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5 Numbers Quiz: What number are you?
So you've read about five of the greatest numbers in the history of the world ever. But which number are you? Play our number game to reveal secrets about your inner self that you never dreamed of. More >>>
Don't miss series 2: Another 5 Numbers >>>







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