The Code Review: Our Days Are Numbered

THE CODE: Wednesday 27th July, BBC2, 9pm

We’re often so busy these days that it’s easy to forget how much of life is governed by numbers. From the concept of time to the foundations of commerce, maths is a vital component of modern day society across the world.

But looking deeper into nature, it’s obvious that numbers play a much bigger role in our lives than we think, and in a similar fashion to the way that Neo see’s green code in The Matrix, maths is all around us.

Taking us on a journey into this mysterious world that we often take for granted is Professor du Sautoy, or Professor Marcus Peter Francis du Sautoy OBE, to give him his full title, a maths whizz and current Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science (a title of which he inherited from none other than Richard Dawkins).

Full of enthusiasm and obviously bursting with knowledge on the subject of numbers, the Beeb’s new pin-up professor wastes no time in getting stuck in, jetting around the world in an attempt to explain to viewers how so called strange objects and events in nature and history can be understood using simple maths skills.

From the Chartres Cathedral in France built using mysterious number combinations to the periodical cicada insect plague that hits Alabama once every 13 years, the Professor shows us that by cracking nature’s numerical code, we’ve been able to unlock some of the laws of nature and ultimately understand more of how the universe works.

The first episode in a series of three, it’s fascinating stuff for people that are interested in the subject, with more than enough theory to please most viewers. For those of you who are slightly rusty however, I’d advise you to have the paracetamol at the ready, as the show is crammed with more maths formulas that your old school teacher could fit into an entire term.

Each concept is explained visually in the simplest way possible, using everyday objects to make the subject more relevant and therefore easier to understand. I’m still bemused as to what exactly the so-called imaginary numbers are that air traffic controllers use, but apart from that I think I got to grips with everything else in the show.

Alongside an online maths treasure hunt, the Beeb are on to a winner here, and the show should be saluted for its attempts to get us interested in a subject often overlooked by many as not being exciting or interesting. In the same way that many of us have fallen in love with astronomy again through the antics of Brian Cox, perhaps Professor du Sautoy could do the same for maths.

Aside from how good the show is however, one thing you have to wonder is why in this time of cost-cutting do the BBC really have to send every presenter around the world to explain a subject? At least there’s no sign of Richard Hammond and his cherry picker, though I presume it’s because he’d be in even further over his head in this show than he is in his own.