1st February 2021, 11:15am


On Thursday, we are joined by mathematician Dr James Grime for his talk ‘Bits and Pieces: Secrets of a Digital World’. For more information — including registration — click here.

This is our first Young People’s events this year, so it would be great if you could forward the event on to family members or friends (ideally at learners aimed between 16-18). That being said, anyone is welcome to join, and it is particularly encouraged if you have an interest in mathematics, World War II, and Alan Turing — the latter belonging to the roll call of Lit & Phil alumni!

In anticipation for the event, we had time to ask Dr Grime about some of his work, including his work with Youtube channel Numberphile.

As with the Keir Giles Q&A and events, if there’s a question you would like to ask Dr Grime yourself, you’ll get a chance at the event on Thursday. Our online events end with a Q&A section, where you can put your questions directly to our speakers. Thanks to Dr James Grime for taking part!

Q: To kick things off, what do you love about maths?

A: Maths is about solving problems. Whenever you are solving problems you are using mathematical thinking. Is a cheaper washing powder better than a more expensive washing powder that works better? How do arrange a dinner party so that two people who hate each other are seated apart. Do I need to take an umbrella with me today? All these problem involve mathematical thinking. And that type of thinking applies to building bridges, designing medicines, and even solving problems within mathematics itself. Mathematics is all about abstract thought - and that's why it's great.

Q: Where did the inspiration for ‘Bits and Pieces: Secrets of a Digital World’ come from?

A: I have spent many years talking about the history and mathematics of secret messages. But there were always some stories I wanted to tell that I couldn't fit in my previous talks. So this talk is about modern digital codes that allow us to transmit messages around the world in ways that are secret, reliable and efficient. Our whole modern world depends on them. But to get there, involved some interesting ideas and interesting people.

Q: Is it fair to label Alan Turing as the forefather of artificial intelligence?

A: Many call Alan Turing the father of modern computing. His description of a computer is the basis of how computers work today. After World War II he worked on projects to make the first computers, which he hoped would be like an electronic brain, and was one of the first to consider the technical and philosophical implications of Artificial Intelligence, and these ideas are just as relevant today.

Q: You have an extensive presence throughout YouTube, be it your own channel SingingBanana or Numberphile. What are your personal favourite videos that you have been involved in?

A: For me, my favourite videos are when I can explain something quite high level, in a succinct YouTube friendly way. It's a fun challenge, and I don't always pull it off, but a good example of that is my video about the Four Colour Theorem, which is a famous result in mathematics that says any map can be coloured using only four colours, so that neighbouring countries are different colours. That's quite surprising and took 120 years to prove, but it's an important idea in networks like the internet.



**Please note that booking closes at 1730 on the day of the event, and we are not able to process registration requests after that time.  If you believe you have sent a registration request but have not received a confirmation email with joining instructions, then please contact the office as soon as possible.  Enquiries regarding bookings sent to the office after 1730 on the day of the event may not be answered.**