City in the Sky

For the past year or so Dallas Campbell and I have been lucky enough to go on a series of amazing adventures for BBC2 exploring the modern aviation industry.

At any point in time there are a million people in the air - a city's worth of citizens in the sky. And the similarities with the city don't end there. These people need feeding, fuel, medical care and emergency response teams - just as we do on the ground. The logistics that go into the design of these systems require a surprising amount of mathematical optimisation, clever science and engineering. 

As part of filming I got to go to Yakustk in Siberia to find out how they keep things running at the coldest airport on Earth. Dallas visited Bhutan to understand the science of landing. And we both went to Dubai to witness the Jetmen and their remarkable solo flying machines. 

City in the Sky is a three part show (departure, In the air & landing) and starts on BBC2 on the 5th June at 9pm. We hope you like it! 

Find out more on the BBC website. 

The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry

 
Rutherford is still jealous of my clearly superior tash.

Rutherford is still jealous of my clearly superior tash.

 

Adam Rutherford have just finished our second series of our BBC Radio Four show in which we attempt to solve your everyday science mysteries. 

It's available as a podcast on the BBC website or via iTunes and BBC Future have made some seriously excellent animated videos to accompany the series.

We'll be returning in the autumn with a new set of science sleuthing stories. So, has something always puzzled you? What un-answered questions do you spend your sleepless nights pondering over? Let us know and we'll investigate: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

The curious cases producer (and continual fountain of brilliance) is Michelle Martin. 

Music by Numbers

We don't have a photo. But whatevs yeah - it's radio. 

We don't have a photo. But whatevs yeah - it's radio. 

Have you ever wondered how they compile the charts? Or what one YouTube view is worth? Or why Coldplay would play at the SuperBowl for free?

Yes?? Good. Then you'll like the new Radio One and Radio One extra show with me & Clara Amfo: Music by Numbers. 

The programme, produced by the wonderful team at Audio Always, is a series of 10 one hour specials over the course of the year. Each takes a particular artist and digs into the numbers that made them. 

Maths and Stats on Radio one eh? Welcome to the future. I like it here. 

Horizon: How to find love online

I actually wanted a pint of lager.

I actually wanted a pint of lager.

I might have written a book on Maths and Love, but the theories can only take you so far. To see how the algorithms play out in the real world, I teamed up with doctor, broadcaster and singleton Xand van Tulleken to make this love-themed episode of Horizon for BBC2. 

In the programme we try and seek answers to the questions that have puzzled a generation of internet singles: How important is your profile picture? What kind of dating site is best to use? And how can a computer tell your dream date from a dud?

As part of the programme, CASA MRes student Thomas Russell built a Horizon themed dating website and matching algorithm that was open for members of the public to join. As to whether that led to any romantic connections? You’ll have to watch the programme to find out.

The show also made it onto Gogglebox on the 29th April 2016.

 

Computing Britain

 
I learnt to code on one of these bad boys.

I learnt to code on one of these bad boys.

 

My ten part BBC Radio four series Computing Britain is now available as a podcast here

Now I know what you're thinking, a radio documentary on the history of computers sounds like a pretty dry way to spend two and a half hours. But actually, this series offers a surprisingly warm and nostalgic look at the plucky British spirit and our role in the birth of the modern computer age. (Honest).

Throughout the last 75 years, Brits have been at the forefront of  a surprising number of innovations: electronic memory, the office & home computer and the gaming industry to name but a few. Yes, they then lacked funding at the crucial moments and the Americans swept in and did everything better, but that's hardly the point. 

The Telegraph called our series "Unexpectedly delightful" which might be the greatest neg ever, but is a reason to download the podcast and give it a go if ever I heard one.

The producers (by which I mean, the people who deserve all of the credit) were Michelle Martin, Alex Mansfield and Deborah Coen.   

Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing

                              Just chilling with a Jacquard Loom, yo. 

                              Just chilling with a Jacquard Loom, yo. 

You might well have heard of Ada Lovelace - the 19th century amateur mathematician and prophet of the computer age. She's recently become a bit of symbol for achievement in science - and never more so than now in the 200th year since her birth. 

But you may not have realised quite how captivating her story is. 

This film for BBC4, first shown on 17th September at 9pm, explores how Ada’s unique inheritance – poetic imagination and rational logic – made her the ideal prophet of the digital age. 

I hope you like the documentary -  it was a real labour of love for all of us. I think the director Nat Sharman has created a very beautiful film - I hope you'll agree. 

Most of all though I hope that you'll see, as I do, that Ada - full of her flaws and failings is the perfect inspirational figure for our subject. A woman who swore and smoked and said what she damn well thought. It’s a beautiful demonstration that whoever you are, whatever your character, there is a place for you in science. 

 

Climate Change by Numbers

                             This still of me & my trusty lightsabre is taken from here

                             This still of me & my trusty lightsabre is taken from here

My very first documentary Climate Change by Numbers aired in the UK on the 2nd of March. It aims to cut through the oceans of information surrounding the subject and focus its attention on just three key figures from the IPCC report - each symbolic of a different aspect of the climate change debate. 

My number, 0.85 degrees, is the amount the Earth has warmed since 1880. But this value raises a number of questions. How do you take the temperature of the earth? How do you account for parts of the world where you don't have data? How do you do this going back in time? And with all of the uncertainty of the data and issues with the methods, how can you be sure that the planet is really warming? 

By choosing three mathematicians to host the show, rather than Earth scientists, we were able to explore the methods used by climate experts in a dispassionate light - focusing on how they arrive at their conclusions, rather than debating the conclusions themselves. 

The programme was produced by the brilliant Alex Freeman &  will be up on BBC iplayer until the beginning of April. I understand there is also a worldwide version - something to look out for if you are not in the UK.

The Mathematics of Love in the media

 
Image from the guardian website

Image from the guardian website

There was lots of lovely coverage of the Mathematics of Love in the UK press around valentines day, both online and in print. Highlights included a double page spread in the Observer, a feature in BBC magazine, articles in the Independent, Sunday Times and the Metro. The Daily Mail even had it as their book of the week, even though  <ahem> their headline writer clearly hadn't read it. 

Some nice international bits too. The book was chosen as Best of the Month on iBooks/iTunes US for February and had coverage everywhere from Australia, India and China. Although I have no idea what that last one says..

I did a lot of radio interviews too (lots of fun, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone with a heart condition). Too many to post here, but here's one of my faves with Guy Raz on NPR

Finally, the book also received these astonishingly positive reviews in Brain Pickings and the Washington Post, both of which are basically the highlight of my whole life ever. 

The Mathematics of Love

Here is the US cover of my first ever popular science book - available from Amazon in ebook, hardback and audiobook. 

It's based on a talk I gave in Binghamton New York last spring and forms one twelfth of the first TED books series: a boutique collection of short books released over the course of a year. 

The book is available in hardbackebook and audiobook

More info on the book can be found on the homepage, or the original talk. 

Radio Four Documentary: Can Maths Combat Terrorism?

 

In my first ever full length radio documentary, producer Michelle Martin and I investigate the hidden patterns behind terrorism and asks whether mathematics could be used to predict and prevent future attacks.

It links in to the academic work I've been doing recently, but - unlike in much of academia - allowed for a chance to ask the bigger questions. Can modelling techniques be used to predict if, and when, another attack the size of 9/11 will occur?

You can listen to the documentary on the BBC website here. (UK only)