The Christmas Lectures

In the mid 1820s Michael Faraday, a former Director of the Royal Institution, initiated the first Christmas Lecture series at a time when organised education for young people was scarce. He presented a total of 19 series, establishing an exciting new venture of teaching science to young people.

The Christmas Lectures have continued annually since this time, stopping only during World War 2. They are recognised as an educational forum for presenting complex scientific issues to young people in an informative and entertaining manner and are the flagship of the Royal Institution. Many world-famous scientists have given the lectures including Baroness Susan Greenfield, the current Director of the Royal Institution, David Attenborough and George Porter.


Lecture 1 The curious incident of the never-ending numbers

Broadcast 25th December 2006

7:15pm five

The secret life of numbers has fascinated people ever since humans learned to count. Join Marcus as he investigates where our numbers came from and where they are going, how big they can get and whether infinity is really a number. Explore the mysterious primes, the indivisible numbers. Just why did Beckham choose the number 23 shirt? And why do sunflowers have 89 petals? Find out how to try for the $1 million prize for cracking mathematics' biggest mystery.

Lecture 2 The story of the elusive shapes

Broadcast 26th December 2006

7:15pm five

Ever wondered why bubbles are always round even if you blow them with a square frame? Or why footballs are made out of pentagons and hexagons? Take a tour through the mathematical and cultural world of shapes - from pyramids in Egypt to the domes of Italy, and from the shape of good dice to the smell of symmetry. We'll even take a trip into hyperspace and reveal how to see in four dimensions.

Lecture 3 The secret of the winning streak

Broadcast 27th December 2006

7.15pm five

Place your bets as we use maths to win at games. Logic is an important part of playing games and mathematics can help you plan the best strategy to win. Explore why some games are won or lost on the first move, how lateral thinking unlocks fiendish brainteasers, and why the economy, the law courts and even human relationships are one big game.

Lecture 4 The case of the uncrackable code

Broadcast 28th December 2006

7.15pm five

From the Caesar Cipher to the Da Vinci Code, people have been fascinated by secret messages. The mathematics of codes lets us to do everything from photographing the surface of Mars to shopping securely on eBay. Find out how prime numbers are now the key to codes which protect credit cards from internet hackers, and how, in the digital age, i-pods and digital TV are just a load of 0s and 1s.

Lecture 5 The quest to predict the future

Broadcast 29th December 2006

7.15pm five

Mathematics is the ultimate fortune teller. It can predict if a new plane design will make it off the ground. It can plan the path of a spacecraft so it passes close to every planet on its journey through the solar system. But some of nature's equations are more tricky. Why is weather so hard to forecast? How will world populations evolve? The mathematics of chaos theory helps explain why problems like these are so challenging.