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OU on the BBC: Music of the Primes - About The Programme

Updated Thursday 15th September 2005

Marcus du Sautoy gets to grips with prime numbers in this BBC/OU series The Music of the Primes

Marcus du Sautoy in front of a board showing 53 for 9 after 17 overs Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

For more than 2000 years, a mathematical riddle has baffled the world’s greatest minds. It’s a problem of such difficulty that it has tormented those mathematicians brave enough to tackle it. Some have given up in despair. Others have been driven mad.

Yet it’s a conundrum that helped Britain to win the Second World War; that was instrumental in the birth of the computer; and that has shed light on the behaviour of atoms, the building blocks of matter itself.

Today, the on-line financial world depends upon its impenetrability. If a solution to it were to be found, it could bring the financial world to its knees. It’s hardly surprising that a prize of For more than 2000 years, a mathematical riddle has baffled the world’s greatest minds. It’s a problem of such difficulty that it has tormented those mathematicians brave enough to tackle it. Some have given up in despair. Others have been driven mad. ,000,000 has been offered to whoever cracks it.

The mystery that has confounded mathematicians for centuries is the riddle that surrounds the distribution of prime numbers. Primes are fundamental to mathematics: they are, after all, the basic building blocks from which all other numbers can be built. Yet they seem to surface entirely randomly along the number line. But are the primes truly random – or is there some hidden pattern? It’s the greatest unsolved problem of mathematics - and whoever cracks it will achieve mathematical immortality.

In The Music of the Primes, Marcus du Sautoy investigates the fascinating story of the great mathematicians – including Carl Friedrich Gauss, Bernhard Riemann, G.H. Hardy, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Alan Turing - who’ve grappled with the problem of the primes.

Filmed on location in Princeton, Las Vegas, Athens, Madras, London, Cambridge, and Gottingen in Germany, Marcus talks to some of the world’s leading mathematicians who’ve been listening to The Music of the Primes.

Marcus du Sautoy is a professor of mathematics at All Souls' Oxford. He is the author of the book The Music of The Primes, upon which this series is based.

Director: Robin Dashwood
Executive Producer: David Okuefuna

First broadcast: Wednesday 28 Sep 2005 on BBC FOUR

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