What does a mathematician really mean when they describe something as beautiful? Is it the same type of beauty we perceive in art or music or landscapes - and is it something that the average member of the public can grasp?
Mathematician Vicky Neale has felt a deep emotional and aesthetic response to her subject since she was little. Now a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford University, in this programme she presents her own personal take on what constitutes the idea of the beautiful in mathematics - drawing connections between other fields like art, music, literature and engineering.
Vicky talks to celebrated maths communicator Marcus du Sautoy about the connections between mathematics and literary narrative, and interviews the acclaimed structural engineer Roma Agrawal about how she strives to create beauty when she’s engineering skyscrapers, sculptures and bridges.
Meanwhile, pianist Nicholas Ross tells us how composers like Mozart have used mathematical ideas like the Golden Section and Fibonacci Sequence to structure their works. Does it really have an impact on a listener’s enjoyment of them?
Historian June Barrow-Green outlines the history of beauty in maths - from the Ancient Greeks, through a Sanskrit treatise on beauty, to the philosophy of GH Hardy whose Mathematician’s Apology of 1940 famously said “there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics”. Vicky also takes a stroll around a wet Blenheim Palace - or at least tries to - with philosopher Angie Hobbs, to explore what mathematicians and artists mean by aesthetic ideas like “elegance”, “economy” and “surprise” - and why they appeal.
Producer: Steven Rajam
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4
The Inside Story of Election 19
What lies behind Boris Johnson's overwhelming election victory? In this programme, Anne McElvoy talks to the key figures across the political spectrum about how the 2019 general election was fought and lost.
To what extent was this a 'Brexit election' and how did the Conservative Party reach out to voters in places that it had not won for decades and in some cases generations? Why did the Opposition Parties agree to holding the election in the first place? What led to Labour's worst defeat since 1935 and why did Jeremy Corbyn's campaign fail to make the impact he had made in 2017? Why did the Liberal Democrats struggle to make the breakthrough that they had hoped for and what difference did the Brexit Party's decision to stand down in Conservative held seats make to the result.
Producer: Peter Snowdon
Cyrano for Hire
It's hard to think of a more intimate, personal form of communication than the love letter. We seal them with our kisses, salt them with our tears, are present in every inky smudge. So it's a truth universally acknowledged that we usually write them ourselves.
But not necessarily...
Cathy FitzGerald hears what it's like to be a love-letter ghostwriter from Rebecca L. Pierce, who runs Love Letter for Hire. Whether you need a letter to make up or a letter to break up, Rebekah can help - but she'll ask you some searching questions along the way.
Author and former ghostwriter Samara O'Shea introduces one of her clients, Steven, and together they share the story of a letter written in despair. And we hear about Vida Select, a company that offers "virtual dating assistants" who'll write flirty messages to potential matches for you on Tinder, Plenty of Fish and other online dating websites.
Cathy decides to have a go for herself and sets up Cyrano for Hire. Her first client is Jason from Brooklyn - what will his girlfriend, Elke, make of her ghostwritten love letter?
Presenter and Producer: Cathy FitzGerald
Executive Producer: Steven Rajam
Photo: David Gochfeld
Interviewees: Rebekah L Pierce, Samara O'Shea, Steven, Chloe Rose Stuart Ulin, Scott Valdez, Jason Nunes, Elke Dehner
A White Stiletto production for BBC Radio 4
My Name Is... Immie
"When I was in primary school, I remember being asked to draw our house. I drew our temporary accommodation, which back then was just an ordinary house. And I think about children living in these office blocks - what would they draw?"
When Immie was growing up, she lived in emergency and then temporary accommodation with her mum and three sisters. Temporary can be permanent for many people, but today she feels much more secure. Then one day something odd happened. She was on the bus, on the to deck, looking into the first floor of an ugly office block on the side of the busy A12 in north east London. She could see it had been converted, and there were people living up and down all seven floors. In tiny flats. Some of them were much smaller than the government's minimum space standard.
Immie wanted to know how this was possible.
We often hear that there is a national housing crisis, but don't always understand what that means. Immie, who is just 22, has made over 80 freedom of information requests to find out how many people are being temporarily housed in office blocks. She discovers that it is perfectly legal to do this - developers can bypass normal planning regulations thanks to Permitted Development Rights or PDR. She meets an architect and a council leader who both say it's wrong, though their reasons are not the same.
Features interviews with architect Julia Park of Leviit Bernstein; and Joseph Ejiofor, the head of Haringey Council ... plus some dramatic location recordings too.
The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde
Eddie was set to become another statistic, another teenager killed by rising levels of knife crime.
But Eddie’s life was saved by the new field of trauma science. It is revolutionising the way people are treated after shootings, traffic accidents or any injury that causes catastrophic bleeding.
The doctors that pioneered the work call it Code Red. Your chances of surviving major bleeding are now higher than ever before.
So what changed? Quite simply trauma medicine has been turned on its head. Before 2007, doctors would have treated Eddie’s catastrophic bleeding by trying to replace the fluid leaking out of his stab wounds. Salty water, called saline, and just one component of our blood – the oxygen carrying red blood cells – would be put back into Eddie’s body - in what's called a massive transfusion.
It seemed like a good idea. Keep the blood pressure up, keep oxygen moving round the body and keep the patient alive. But that’s not what happened - around half of people died on the operating table. The principles were wrong. They were damaging the body’s natural way of stemming blood loss – clotting.
It was around 2003 that the ideas behind the Code Red protocol started to take shape. The poster child of the new field of trauma science was revealing the vital role of clotting. Karim Brohi, Professor of Trauma Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, discovered that major trauma could disrupt the blood’s ability to clot within minutes of the injury, and patients affected were more likely to die. What's more, saline was diluting the blood and making the bleeding worse.
Over a decade ago, the Royal London Hospital decided to do something radical. It introduced Code Red, also known as damage control resuscitation, and shifted the focus from blood pressure to blood clotting - get blood products into patients to get on top of any abnormalities there first.
Making that happen took a huge culture shift. This is not a normal research environment. There’s no time to ponder, patients are hovering between life and death; and every second counts. But now the innovation has been accepted across the NHS, and recent research reveals a massive drop in the death rate of patients with catastrophic bleeding.
Producer: Beth Eastwood