Segments in this Video

Emergence of a New Universe (03:05)


The most basic concepts of math--space and quantity--are hardwired into the human brain. Conditions along the Nile were perfect for early human farmers. Recording the patterns of the seasons was essential for survival.

Egyptian Numbers (05:24)

Egyptians used their bodies to measure the world. The bureaucracy needed math to calculate areas of land parcels; they could then tax accordingly. Egyptians used the decimal system. Egyptians understood the principles of binary numbers.

Mathematics in Everyday Egyptian Life (05:32)

Egyptian mathematics were used frequently in everyday activities such as dividing bread and beer equally among workers. From practical math, new abstractions appeared such as fractions and the mathematics of numbers including pi.

Egyptian Pyramids (05:04)

Some mathematicians believe the Golden Ration is hidden within the pyramids. This ratio is associated with perfect proportions in nature and art, for example. Egyptians knew how to calculate the volume of a pyramid.

Math and Growth of Babylonian Empire (02:33)

Out of necessity, the Babylonians became masters of managing and manipulation with numbers in order to expand and run their empire. Children attended scribe school to learn how to read, write, and work with numbers.

Practical Math in Babylonia (05:15)

The Babylonians appeared interested in solving practical problems having to do with measuring and weighing. Babylonians used a base-60 number system. They also recognized place value.

Babylonian Quadratic Equations (02:44)

Babylonian engineers and surveyors used ingenious ways to find water and channeling it to the crop fields. In calculating the area of fields, quadratic equations evolved out of necessity.

Tactical Mathematics (01:41)

The Babylonians were avid game players. Their descendants play a version of backgammon that has existed for 5000 years. People used mathematics in calculating game strategy without knowing they were using tactical mathematics.

Babylonian Understanding of Right Triangles (04:02)

A controversial Babylonian tablet suggests that the Babylonians might have grasped the principles of right triangles, but they did not express this knowledge as the equation later developed by Pythagoras.

Greek Passion for Mathematics (08:16)

The legacy of the Greeks is the power of proof. The Pythagorean Theorem: in a right angled triangle the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

Plato and the Importance of Geometry (02:12)

Schools of philosophy and science flourished all over Greece, the most famous of which was Plato's Academy. Plato believed that geometry was the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.

Alexandria: Hub of Academic Excellence (01:27)

Ptolemy's famous library gained a reputation to rival Plato's Academy. The patrons of the library were the first professional scientists.

Euclid (02:09)

Euclid's greatest achievements were as a chronicler of mathematics. Around 300 BC, he wrote "The Elements," the most important textbook of all time. The theorems in the book are as true today as they were 2,000 years ago.

Archimedes: Mathematical Visionary (03:25)

Archimedes, enraptured by pure mathematics, believed that mathematics should be studied for its own sake. He found a way to calculate the volume of a sphere.

End Times of Greek Mathematics (02:43)

By the middle of the 1st century B.C. the Romans had tightened their grip on the old Greek empire. They were dedicated to the pragmatic uses of mathematics. Hypatia is considered to have been the first woman to write on the subject of mathematics.

Credits: The Language of the Universe: Mathematics in Ancient Times (00:30)

Credits: The Language of the Universe: Mathematics in Ancient Times

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The Language of the Universe: Mathematics in Ancient Times

Part of the Series : The Story of Math
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In this program, Professor Marcus du Sautoy explores mathematical milestones of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. Topics include Egypt’s unusual method of multiplication and division, as well as Egyptians’ understanding of binary numbers, fractions, and solids such as the pyramid; Babylon’s base-60 number system—the foundation of minutes and hours—and Babylonians’ use of quadratic equations to measure land; and the contributions of four of Greece’s mathematical giants: Plato, Euclid, Archimedes, and Pythagoras. Original Open University title: The Language of the Universe. A part of the series The Story of Math. (58 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL40029

ISBN: 978-1-60825-362-3

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

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“Makes math engaging, relevant, and accessible for students.”  —Booklist

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