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All is Number

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Major funding for this project, has been provided by the Peter Moores trust and additional funding from the University of the West Indies To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour William Blake could have been writing about the myriad of things in the universe, that at its heart and soul are described by mathematics. It was well over 2000 years ago that the Greek mathematician Pythagoras showed that in any right angle triangle the square of this side plus the square of this side, gives you the square of the hypotenuse. Indeed we could not get through school without having been taught that. Pythagoras is known as the father of numbers he lead a school of thought that believed that all things around us could be explained and understood by mathematics. Or as he so elegantly put it, "All is Number." Join me on a journey, as we discover that mathematics is the heart and soul of all things around us, even when we least suspect it. All science depends very heavily on mathematics, which is the language of science. Now you may think that as a biologist you do not need that much mathematics, but when you think of the sophisticated statistics, which are used by biologists as they examine the natural world then you will see that you perhaps have a quality of mathematics which is beyond many other people. Even in social sciences where they tend to think of themselves as somehow different, they depend very heavily on graphs and analysis of graphs which is of course mathematics. Everywhere we go, there is mathematics. Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth. Nor does lightning travel in a straight line. These are the words of Mandelbrot, the man who discovered the geometry to describe such complex patterns, known as fractals. And first I should try and explain in very superficial fashion exactly what a fractal is. Everyone knows that a line is one dimensional and that a plane is two dimensional a sphere three dimensional and so on. What many people do not realise is that there are objects that which have a dimensionality between one and two. and between two and three. They have what is called a fractal dimension which may be 1.6, 1.4, 2.3 or anything like that. A prime simple example of that is a coastline. The fundamental question is, how long is a coastline? Well, the answer depends on the measurement stick used. If we look at the coastline of Barbados, a meter stick will give you a shorter length than if you use a string that will allow you to go around every stone and peeble. The more you increase the accuracy of your measurement, the longer your distance becomes. This is a property of fractals. Fractals are figures with an infinite amount of detail. The more detailed you measure, the more its size increases. There is structure at all scales.

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 25 seconds
Language: English
Producer: Shirin Haque & Leo Moseley
Director: Terry Sampson
Views: 4,422
Posted by: platchman on May 26, 2010

Gain an awareness and appreciation of mathematics.

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