Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Story of Maths Part 3

In which our presenter, maths professor Marcus du Sautoy, gets on to the beginning of real (European) maths: Descartes, Newton, Leibnitz, Euler, Riemann, Gauss, Bolyai, Lobachevsky.

Covering this pantheon of maths heroes involves, of course, travelling to their birthplaces and haunts, mandatory drinks with some of their descendants, and lots of forest walks.

Did I mention that maths is also sometimes mentioned? Yes, we saw on screen Euler's famous e = -1. Also an infinite series which sums to π2/6 - this was illustrated with drinking glasses, (allegedly) partially filled with vodka, although not in the correct ratios! And Leibnitz's notation for the calculus was also lauded. Of course, the significance of none of this was explained.

So although Adrian, Clare and myself found this episode the most interesting so far, it doesn't begin to pass any of the tests it must have set for itself. Fundamentally, the programme has no idea of its audience. It needs to use terms like infinite series, calculus, high-dimension non-Euclidean geometry, but has no confidence that the viewer will be able to understand any of it.

Don't ask me to write the script, but there has to be a better way.