TV Review: The Code, BBC2
The Code BBC2
NUMBERS dominate our lives – 12, the number of Jesus's disciples; 24, the number of hours in a day; 666, the number of Rebekah Brooks for example.
The Code sees Professor Marcus du Sautoy, above, ask why the world is the way it is.
It's a question I ask every time I find myself behind someone sending 15 parcels to the Ukraine in the queue at the post office.
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"As a mathematician," said du Sautoy, "I'm fascinated by the numbers and patterns that we see all around us."
He's one of the few people who gets excited by the prices at the petrol station.
Du Sautoy promised to reveal the code "that has the power to unlock the laws that govern the universe".
The rest of us are just happy remembering our pin numbers. He illustrated nature's reliance on such codes by highlighting the "bizarre" life cycle of the periodic cicada, a large grasshopper-esque creature that would certainly give you a turn if you found one on your headboard at 3am.
"What makes these insects so interesting," he opined, "is that for 12 years they remain hidden underground in vast numbers, then in the 13th year, all at same time, they burrow out of the Earth to breed."
They really are the perfect non-hands-on pet.
"It really is insect mayhem," said Du Sautoy as he watched millions emerge blinking into the daylight of rural Alabama. Thankfully, they don't live here.
I couldn't handle their disappointment at waiting 12 years only to emerge into Nuneaton.
The cicada only emerges every 13 years to avoid coinciding with the life cycle of other similar species. Similarly Kerry Katona and The Dingles never go shopping on the same day.
Du Sautoy liked using animals to illustrate a point. He manhandled several flatfish to show the mechanics of plus and minus numbers.
"It's easy to imagine what one fish or two fish look like," he said, "but harder to imagine what minus one fish looks like."
While the rest of his class smuggled a calculator into the O-level maths exam, he had a packet of fishfingers.
He also showed how animals use incompatible patterns of noise to make sounds which indicate distress – the wail of an elephant, the squawk of a monkey, the latest single form Cheryl Cole.
But the human world fascinated him too, stone circles in particular, like those to be found in Cumbria, and, more recently, at the roundabout in Joiners Square.
"The Code," he concluded, "is the truth of the universe and its numbers dictate the way the world must be."