# tayles / David Taylor

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## Huffduffed (17)

1. ### Simple as Pi

Episode two of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Most people’s first slice of Pi is at school where it is generally made palatable as either 3.14 or the fraction 3 1/7. The memory of this number may be fuzzy for those propelled through their Maths GCSE by the power of Casio (where Pi was reduced to a button on the bottom row of the calculator), but the likelihood is they still recall that romanticised notion of a number whose decimal places randomly go on forever. 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 an apparently random decimal string of infinite length.

2. ### The Golden Ratio

Episode three of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Divide any number in the Fibonacci sequence by the one before it, for example 55/34, or 21/13, and the answer is always close to 1.61803. This is known as the Golden Ratio, and hence Fibonacci’s Sequence is also called the Golden Sequence. Unlikely though it might seem, this series of numbers is the common factor linking rabbits, cauliflowers and snails.

3. ### The Imaginary Number

Episode four of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

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, when there was ‘nuff respect’ to be had from solving a particularly ‘wicked’ equation. And the wicked equation of the day went like this: "If the square root of 1 is both 1 and -1, then what is the square root of -1?"

4. ### Infinity

Episode five of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

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.

5. ### Another Five Numbers, 2: The Number Seven

Episode two of Another Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Picture a gambler. Is it George Clooney, tuxedo ruffled after an all-nighter at a Vegas Black Jack table, or your old Aunt Doris putting down her yearly quid-on-the-nose for the Grand National? Recent research would suggest that it’s neither. Your inveterate gambler is far more likely to be sporting leather patches at their elbows, an unhealthy appetite for corduroy, and a penchant for M-Series rather than Martinis, shaken or stirred. Some mathematicians are putting their mathematical theory where their mouth is and are betting the shirts, stuffed or otherwise, off their backs.

6. ### 2 — At The Double

Episode two of A Further Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

We all remember the story of the Persian who invented chess and who asked to be paid with 1 grain of rice on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third and so on, doubling all the way to the 64th square. He bankrupted the state!

This doubling is a form of exponential growth, which appears in everything from population growth to financial inflation to the inflation theory that supposedly caused the Big Bang.

7. ### 6 Degrees of Separation

Episode three of A Further Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Six is often treated as 2x3, but has many characteristics of its own. Six is also the "pivot" of its divisors (1 2 3=6=1x2x3) and also the centre of the first five even numbers: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. Six seems to have a pivoting action both mathematically and socially. How is it that everyone in the world can be linked through just six social ties? As Simon discovers, the concept of “six degrees of separation” emerged from a huge postal experiment conducted by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1967. Milgram asked volunteers to send a package by mail to one of a hundred people chosen at random. But they could only send mail to people they knew on first name terms.