EBS mathematics documentaries enjoyable to watch again

Published : Friday, August 3, 2018, 11:08 am
What does come to your mind first when you think of 'Mathematics'? Perhaps you might remember the time when studying the tough subject in your school life. It is the mathematics that one of the subjects which many people are feeling difficult is. However, Pythagoras asserted, "all is number". Math is not just calculation, but part of our life. In addition, it could be an important key to understand essence of nature and the universe.

The "EBS DocuPrime", a documentary program, has handled such mathematics several times. Of numerous documentaries, there are some particularly interesting and attractive. Those are the EBS classical mathematics documentaries dealing with the origin, history, and development of mathematics, which we can enjoyably watch again any time. They are the "Numbers", the "Math and the rise of civilization", and the "Pythagoras Theorem".

■ <Numbers> (Nov. 2015)

What reminds us first when we talk about the word of ‘Number’? The most familiar numbers to us might be the Arabic numerals. In mathematics, however, various characters are used as numbers. The "Numbers", a pentaptych documentary, is covering the five numbers that led the human civilization and mathematical history: π, ∞, x, 0, and i.

Each episode handles one number or one letter. Part 1 discusses π, Part 2 is about ∞, Part 3 handles x, Part 4 covers 0, and finally, Part 5 deals with i. The documentary lets us know how these numbers were created through anecdotes of famous mathematicians, such as Archimedes, Galileo, Kantor, Galois, Gauss and so on.

Chair-professor Roger Penrose / Department of Mathematics, Oxford University
"The imaginary number is called as the number of imagination, but originally as a magic number. They created something that had not existed."

The documentary was filmed in a total of 15 countries, including China, Greece, Germany, and France. The participation of renowned mathematical scholars, such as Roger Penrose and Cédric Villani who won the Fields Medal in 2010, as well as mathematicians from each country has enhanced the expertise of the documentary. This led to the award for the excellence prize at the 2016 Korea Communications Commission Broadcasting Awards and the best picture in TV documentary sector at the 43rd Korea Broadcasting Prizes.

Professor Cédric Villani / Director of research in Poincaré Institute
"Mathematics was born here in Greece, at the same time as philosophy. It was a way to understand the world."

"Numbers" is not a documentary just showing lectures in a classroom. It sometimes reenacts the lives of ancient mathematicians to help the viewers' understanding. Moreover, a famous mathematician visits the historical sites in person to describe the history of mathematics in some cases. It could be said that they directly experience and show how mathematics have affected our lives.

This documentary will be very helpful to high school students, who are consistently using ‘π, ∞, x, 0, and i' in class. They will be able to more excitingly understand math, further feeling the intrinsic beauty of mathematics. In addition, this documentary is beneficial to adults, in that it looks back on the history of human intelligence.

■ <Math and the rise of civilization> (Dec. 2011)

The "Math and the rise of civilization" is also a pentaptych documentary. It won the Grand Prize (Presidential Prize) at the 2012 Korea Communications Commission Broadcasting Awards, the Best Picture at the 48th Baeksang Arts Awards, and the Special Achievement Award from the Korea Mathematical Society. As subtitled as ‘Mathematics is the key to enter all knowledge of the world’, this documentary is telling the history of mathematics, which became the cornerstone in many civilized countries. It rectifies misconceptions for mathematics only to be considered as the problem-solving skills and calculation itself, trying to approach the root to demonstrate why the numbers were born. Through the 'invisible numbers', it would like to tell the story of 'Real Mathematics', which has developed visible technologies and cultures to make the civilization created.

"Part 1: The Beginning of Numbers" discusses the numbers that began in ancient Egypt. Using Egyptian calculating methods, hieroglyphics, etc., it explores the source that they could bloom the civilization 4,000 years ago. It also examines how Egypt, the first human civilized country, ruled the kingdom only with a single page of papyrus and how they coud acquire the technologies for distribution and measurement.

"Part 2: The Elements" deals with Euclidean geometry. There is a book followed by the United States Declaration of Independence and 'Pricnipia' of Newton. It is the Euclid’s Elements. This book, which was compiled by Euclid and contains Greek philosophies and mathematics, has become the principles of all studies later.

"Part 3: The Divine Numbers" lets us know the number 0 which opened the infinite world and the story of India, the God's country, where 0 was born. '0' led math to the infinite world, giving science the power to imagine the universe. This part tracks how '0', the best invention in human history, could come out to the world.

In "Part 4: The Infinitesimal Calculus of Moving World", Britain and the continental Europe in the 17th century was drawn into the war of intellectual property rights. The academic worlds also stopped even their correspondence for 100 years. It was because of Newton in the UK and Leibniz in Germany. In the Infinitesimal Calculus, a magic that can explain everything changing with the equation, it explores who would be the winner, Newton or Leibnitz.

The last "Part 5: The Remaining Issues" shows the future of mathematics. It examines modern mathematics via great mathematical problems, Fermat's Last Theorem and Poincaré Conjecture.

■ <Pythagoras Theorem> (Sep. 2008)

The last documentary to be recommended is the "Pythagoras Theorem". It is a kind of mathematical civilization documentary, which is the first mathematical documentary examining the evolution of human civilization and the awareness through triangles. The civilization that has developed mankind for thousands of years contains the wisdom of life that has begun from a triangle. So this documentary tries to investigate the influence and possibility of mathematics on the development of human civilization through the Pythagoras theorem.

In Part 1, the trace of a triangle is discussed. In Samos island of Greece, known as the birthplace of Pythagoras, there is a tunnel built about 2600 years ago. The tunnel, which was constructed to draw the waterway, was known as one of the three wonders even for ancient Greeks. It is the first tunnel in the human history that was completed by setting the direction in a straight line and digging from both directions! How could Greeks dig the straight tunnel even without any special equipment? The key to solve the secret was a right triangle.

Part 2 is on A2+B2=C2. After discovering the clay tablets from Babylonian period in 1920s, mathematicians struggled to find out what the numbers written on tablets would mean. At last, the mystery has been solved. They were numbers that represented the length of three sides of a right triangle. Babylonian had already known the nature of a right triangle 3700 years ago, which we know as the ‘Pythagoras Theorem’ today. Then, why do we call it as the ‘Pythagoras Theorem’, the theory that had been already known thousand years before the birth of Pythagoras?

The last episode is about the beetle on earth. The Pythagorean theorem is known as the most perfect and beautiful formula among mathematicians. However, it does not work for the space, but on a plane. The human vision that stayed in a triangle on the plane now moved to the space, called the earth. Based on this mathematical research, Einstein could unveil the secrets of the universe. As a stepping stone to solve mysteries of nature, mathematics is showing infinite possibilities.

This documentary is highly recommended to middle school students who currently study the Pythagoras Theorem in class. While studying, watching a documentary about Pythagoras, but not just memorizing the formula, could help them more interestingly understand and enjoy mathematics.

■ Conclusion

The "Numbers", the "Math and the rise of civilization", and the "Pythagoras Theorem" were broadcasted form shortly 3 years to 10 years ago. These days, when new contents are being released, why should we watch such outdated documentaries? These documentaries handle the stories of mathematicians who had lived thousands years ago. What they found out and learned is still valid even in 2018. Same rule could be applied to these documentaries. They are classical mathematics documentaries to watch again any time, which EBS is proud of. The 'Classics' are called classics because their value does not fade over time, but rather goes up. The value of EBS classical mathematics documentaries will rise as time goes on. Why don't you watch them before too late?


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