Horizon – Alan and Marcus Go Forth and Multiply Review: No, Not The Numbers!

March 31, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews


horizon-300x210HORIZON: ALAN AND MARCUS GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY, Tuesday 31st March, BBC2, 9.00PM Alert Me

Maths. It’s enough to make anyone shudder and grimace with memories of quadratic equations and algebra. I have no idea how I passed my Maths GCSE; most of my time was spent copying work from someone who knew what they were talking about and trying not to inhale the god-awful breath of the most aptly named fat teacher, Miss Fulton (or Full Tonne to those who are still trying to erase the memories of her in lycra cycling shorts on that nightmarish Mufti Day).

Gunners fan Alan Davies shares my distaste for all things numerical, but Oxford Professor Marcus du Sautoy is determined to prove that arithmetic need not be the enemy. With a tour that leads the pair to Oxford and Paris, across a canny array of mathematical games to keep them amused, each gradually peaks Alan’s interest in calculating the incalculable.

No doubt about it, Professor Du Sautoy has an effervescent enthusiasm about Maths that I didn’t think possible. Although the banter is great (look out for the awkward pause after Marcus asks “Are you ready to be sucked off…?” – He meant into another dimension, but still hilarity ensues), I fail to see how this makes Maths interesting. Apparently they were so bored back in the 19th century that they “creatively played with numbers for fun?. Games are all well and good, but suddenly there are X’s and Y’s and charts and graphs and then there’s crying and rocking and I black out after that…

Marcus encourages Alan to think about creating shapes in a mysterious “4th Dimension? that exists solely in the mind. Imagine if  The Twilight Zone relocated to the Bermuda Triangle, inhabited by the combined casts of The Munsters and The Addams Family and you’re still not even close. Marcus even convinces Alan that the universe is shaped like a doughnut which only serves to a) confuse me and b) make my stomach rumble.  Despite Alan’s attempts at looking wowed by Euclid’s proof and the Riemann Hypothesis when he visits Marcus “the Maths brain” in his natural habitat, Davies is clearly out of his depth. Like a fawn that’s backed into a corner, the fact that he can “almost smell the maths” clearly pains Alan more than he can bear to let on. Davies can’t possibly believe  that Grigori Perelmann would want to solve one of the seven Millennium Problems and then turn down the one million pound reward. Ok so immortality is one thing, but it isn’t going to put a roof over your head and food on the table. In the words of Jerry Maguire, if Perelmann doesn’t want it, “Show me the money!”

Despite Marcus’ best efforts, I remain unconvinced about the wonders of Maths. Although it was interesting to note that the pattern of vibrations emitted when a ball bearing is thrown at a sphere, is the same as the pattern of the dispersal of prime numbers,I feel that this clip summarises all anyone will ever need to know about Maths and alternate dimensions.

Sorry Davies, better luck next time.

Sally McIlhone

trevor allett says:

Did you even watch the programme?
..the _universe_ donut shaped not planet
..dollars, one million dollar reward. Also, Su Sautoy suggested that arithmetic
is the grammar and what he’s about reveal may well be the Shakespear…
that is what i am thinkng…….