Segments in this Video

Patterns (05:03)


Mathematics underlies all of civilizations great advances, but where does it come from? This segment introduces the question of mathematics' origin, and how it will be explored. Astrophysicist Mario Livio discusses the mathematical nature of the world.

Mathematical Universe (10:05)

In geometry, pi is the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. However, it also appears in many other observable phenomena, as Livio explains. Physicist Max Tegmark discusses the similarities between our world and a computer game.

Simple Ratios in the Real World (03:04)

The ratios Pythagoras explored are present in many natural phenomena. His philosophies also had a great influence on Plato, who believed mathematics exists in an ideal world. Mathematicians reflect on their experiences studying math and "discovering" its laws.

Nature of Mathematics (06:29)

Is it possible that mathematics only exists in the human brain, rather than being all encompassing? Sham is a math genius, and his ability is being studied by Michael O'Boyle. Professor Liz Brannon investigates the mathematical ability of lemurs and other primates.

Mathematical Rules of the Universe (06:48)

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mathematics is used to such ends as landing a rover on Mars. Adam Steltzner explains the law of falling bodies and its history.

Math's Predictive Power (09:52)

Simon Schaffer shares the context of Isaac Newton's great discoveries and experiments in math and physics. Newton realized that gravity was a universal force and could be expressed mathematically. Mathematics can be used to predict almost anything, from the existence of Neptune to electromagnetic waves.

Mathematics and Physics (05:24)

Mathematics made it possible for physicists to explore the structure of atoms beyond what could currently be observed. At CERN, physicists conduct experiments to find a fundamental particle predicted 50 years ago. Tegmark shares the history of the Higgs Boson and its prediction.

Limitations of Mathematics (03:41)

Steltzner, an engineer, explains the limitations of math in the real world. In practical applications, mathematics only has to be "close enough" to accomplish something. Livio shares his perspective of mathematics as a combination of invention and discovery.

Credits: The Great Math Mystery (01:06)

Credits: The Great Math Mystery

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The Great Math Mystery

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Astrophysicist Mario Livio, along with a colorful cast of mathematicians, physicists, and engineers, follow math from Pythagoras to Einstein and beyond, all leading to the ultimate riddle: Is math an invention or a discovery? Humankind's clever trick, or the language of the universe? Join NOVA for a mathematical mystery tour—a provocative exploration of math's astonishing power across the centuries.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL151287

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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