The Code: Numbers, Shapes and Prediction
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The Code: Numbers, Shapes and Prediction

2011, Science  -   64 Comments
Ratings: 6.69/10 from 172 users.

A mysterious code underpins the world. But what does it mean and what can we learn from it?

Marcus du Sautoy takes us on an odyssey to uncover the code and reveal its meaning.

A code that has the power to explain everything, from the numbers and shapes we see all around us to the rules that govern our own lives.

Numbers. In this first episode, Marcus reveals how significant numbers appear throughout the natural world. They're part of a hidden mathematical world that contains the rules that govern everything on our planet and beyond.

Shapes. Starting at the hexagonal columns of Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway, he discovers the code underpinning the extraordinary order found in nature - from rock formations to honeycomb and from salt crystals to soap bubbles.

Marcus also reveals the mysterious code that governs the apparent randomness of mountains, clouds and trees and explores how this not only could be the key to Jackson Pollock's success, but has also helped breathe life into hugely successful movie animations.

Prediction. This time it's the strange world of what happens next. Professor du Sautoy's odyssey starts with the lunar eclipse - once thought supernatural, now routinely predicted through the power of the code. But more intriguing is what the code can say about our future.

Along the path to enlightenment, Marcus overturns the lemming's suicidal reputation, avoids being crushed to death, reveals how to catch a serial killer and discovers that the answer to life the universe and everything isn't 42 after all - it's 1.15.

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64 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Vandana Verma

    I think the last episode makes the most sense because knowing some facts about how humans behave as a population is quite intriguing. It kind of gives definition to the chaos we have in our lives. Definitely there’s no math equation to life but the whole emphasis on life being a tangled web of cause and effect does force you to see pattern in your life, and of people you come across. After all, we are all a part of universe that is being governed by these small codes or whatever in such a fascinating way. A good watch for people who love maths and also for people who always questioned the point of exactly knowing all those cumbersome mathematical formulas.

  2. J.SMITH


  3. Jeanette

    I watched it , I don't get it. I read comments, I don't get it. My sister likes it, I don't get it. Course I have dis calculia . ( resembles dyslexia but about numbers). That could be why. Researched it , i don't get it. I don't get cubism as an art form, I don't get it.

  4. Chax

    Only had to read a few comments to see what kind of doc this is :D will skip this one for now hehe

  5. Kukla

    Just further proved to me that God is the ultimate mathmatician.

  6. Humac

    It's just math? I'm not sure why it's treated so obliquely and with so much overwrought sense of mystery? Wonder I get. Maybe even a sense of the numinous. But it's not a "mysterious code". It's, y'know, numbers.

  7. Epieye

    Math, code, who cares what you call it. The series demonstrates the beauty, efficiency, chaos, and mystery of nature's mathimatical underpinnings. I found it a fascinating and artistic series.

  8. matfav58

    If he said Math instead of Code, nobody would watch! plain and simple. It was a documentary for the masses not for university students. Nor Maths wizzes. I was a little disappointed that a model of math (code) was not mapped out or diagrammed and that was a little frustrating. We live in the Matrix, see if you can crack THAT code. hahahahaha

  9. Avery St Clair

    Worth watching, well produced. But what a hambone the fellow is.

  10. Earvin Barcancel

    fibonacci and pie that's it. not too complicated

  11. TimOsmand

    Speaking of numbers, pause it at 12:24 of Prediction the third episode.

    1. Robin Forward

      Hahaha the number 6..... thats kinda creepy, although probs faked

  12. Steve Bell

    One thing is for sure, by halfway through the second programme I was getting sick of the phrase "the code".

    At the end of the first programme the guy insists that we have deciphered "the code". Really? When? All he did in the first program was to show that nature uses numbers. He also insists that Pi is part of "the code", without ever really proving it, and even failing to identify its context within "the code".

    Really, all this is, is a man saying "the code" a lot, and showing us how numbers rule the world. He does'nt show you what "the code" is, does'nt decipher it in its entirety (despite his insistence in the first program). It's just really a lot of number observations put together, along with an insistence that they are all part of "the code".

    I still dont know what "the code" is. I dont know what its comprised of, I dont know how many equations it has, I dont know anything about it other than its called "the code" and it works by the numbers and governs everything. Apparently. I already knew that bee's made honeycombs that shape because it was the strongest and most efficient. But I still dont know how this pertains to "the code". He has'nt proved to me that the bee's used "the code" or that they even have knowledge of "the code". All I know is that there could have once been bee's that made honeycombs using circles, and because that obviously is'nt the best shape to use, they died out. Another set of bee's could have been using squares. Natural selection selected the version of the bee that used the most efficient shape and allowed it to evolve, but I still dont know how this pertains to "the code", all I understand is that it was done by natural selection.

    I'd like to know what "the code" is, other than the abstract reference to which the presenter keeps using it. I'd like to know what numbers it comprises of. Dont tell me that "the code" exists, and insist to me that you've deciphered it in the first program when I'm still sitting here thinking "huh?" because that obviously means you havent deciphered anything.

    1. gilchrist

      the code = God, karma, law of attraction etc it is metaphysics! a more modern approach on what life is and how best to go about it. patterns, simple ratios and positive (not consuming) produces beauty and comfort, a perhaps universal reaction!? (another time though). the result is an emotional reactions, influencing the next action etc etc. extrapolate what you can see in natures maths into your every day life and things will be nicer. hence the religion thing so be careful here.

      for example i know this is only small but its a contained instance for us to explore safely and quickly. i share a house with 8 other people, we are all friends and pleasant hard working people. but, there are challenges that arise even in there conditions, as you have probably already though of is mess. one of these such things is the fridge. there are 3 clear shelves each with there own allocated purpose so maximize function. when this pattern or code is broken the fridge not only looks less appealing you also struggle to use is in the efficient manner you do when its is organized. there is the added affect that when someone opens that fridge and see's a mess there is the insult to the communal mechanism and the awareness that it is going to have to be sorted out! therefore putting that person in a negative mindset, and more likely to just through the thing they wanted back in with no pattern, perpetuating the consumption of the good positive feelings produced when someone opens a clean organized fridge and puts it back properly. there is not interuption from the realization that it is a mess and there is a sense of pride and achievement from being part of something that works well and looks beautiful. and thus going on to do more good things!

      i hope that give a wee insight in to what the code is, we should all think and explore about it by yourself and with friends. though every one comes to the same conclusion when they go down this route, we, you, i, everything = 1.

      spread the love :)

  13. Michael

    ugh.. "atoms are indivisible units that make up everything? No atoms are composed of neutrons, protons,(which are made of quarks) and electrons, elementary particles are considered indivisible, but that is just cause we havent been able to detect anything smaller, kids in elementary school should know that, as well as what prime numbers are... I was looking forward to watching but now 15 min but now seems like this show is going to be a waste, i'm already familiar w/ the golden ratio(which is ~1.6 not 1.15, if that what that is referring to) and fractals...skimming ahead...ugh do u guys not have math and physics in school? 1st ep is waste for anyone who has, skipping to last to see if there's anything interesting there

    1. Samuel Morrissey

      Atoms are the indivisible units of all matter [everything] since any smaller piece [of an atom] can no longer be considered as 'matter' and certainly does not behave like matter behaves. Some people did not have very good teachers in school, others have been led to believe in supernatural explanations for the universes deeper mysteries. Yet more simply find information hard to absorb in the school method, particularly at such a young age. I was none of these, yet I watched this doc the first time it was aired, and IMHO it is very well presented and contains few flaws, which are mainly due to having to condense such a vast array of concepts in a 3 hour documentary, and analogize for people who don't have an A-Level or above in mathematics.

    2. Michael

      it was an inaccurate, unecessary anology. The quote was ""atoms are indivisible units that make up everything", which is just plain wrong atoms are divisible. and even if he said "matter" not "everything" that would still be wrong, quarks and therefore neutrons and protons have mass and therefore qualify as matter, just makes me cringe to hear them say that on a science program, and it seems like a pointless analogy i mean you expect people to be more familiar w/ atoms then prime numbers?... anyway the show I skimmed through seemed like it'd be good to show to kids and others not familiar w/ math to get them more interested in math, shows applications of math in the real world which are presented in a color entertaining manner,...just disappointed on a personal level that this show didnt introduce anything new to me (cept that google used searches to predict flu) from the title it seems likes its leading up to some newly developed mathetic formula, but it's just referring to that in general math is applicabale to the real world, and gives a bunch of examples

    3. Samuel Morrissey

      Fair enough. I too dislike misleading analogies although TBH as this was a doc about mathematics and not chemistry it didn't appear very relevant to me. I do like Marcus' style and presenting manner, and if like some have commented here this program inspires people to look more deeply into the world of mathematics, which is fundamental to all science and knowledge, that can only be a good thing.

      I dissagree with you about the mass = matter but I have no wish to argue kind sir.


    4. Will Conley

      I hate soft math and soft physics too. A point of linguistics which may explain people's confusion: "atom" comes from the Greek for "indivisible." If I remember correctly, Greek philosophers two millenniums ago hypothesized that indivisible units of matter, i.e., "atoms," exist. When scientists discovered that what we call atoms are in fact divisible, they didn't bother to change the name. I call that laziness, and that laziness has been confusing people for years now. Oh well.

  14. bobcat43

    i like the way the bbc lady comes straight in at the end of episodes with -whats on next on BBC - when she should be saying we're pausing now to give you all a chance to think about what the man just said, it's important

  15. Timothy Rooney

    This documentary has inspired me to learn mathematics.

  16. Karenwasherefirst

    Episode 2: Principles of Nature; Geology, Fractals...Symmetry and Patterns

    Episode 3: Chaos vs Probability; Standard Deviation of 1.15 as a general rule

  17. Karenwasherefirst

    Episode 1: Prime numbers, addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, fractions, geometry, physics, calculus, fractals and statistics. Just the basics :] and a little architecture, harmonics, biology and astronomy to round out the pie a little.

  18. gunk wretch

    if u look about 49:42 of episode one, if you look to your right of orion's belt there are a group of stars going out and coming back on?

  19. norlavine

    Silly numbers: 1 1 was a racehorse, 2 2 was 1 2, 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2

    1. UniversalCypher

      how quickly the universe begins to make sense..

  20. Shisui

    @ the part about prime numbers...

    Go to 14mins 22 seconds and pause screen there.

    Find a miss calculation somewhere on the screen and you get a cookie :)

  21. CapnCanard

    if Satan is 6 and the Pixies are 7, then the Mats are 8, the Mats are 8!

    1. James Fredericks

      this code has gone to heaven

    2. timintheeye

      on a wave of mathmaticians!!!

    3. replacemen0t

      the Mats had surely gone to Heaven by '88!

  22. Sam Adams

    In episode three at the end when they are talking about the size of the city and wages, I find it hard to believe that any scientist would be shocked by %15 higher wages. It costs more to live in a city plain and simple. There is no magic to it, things are simply more expensive in a large city and the %15 id accounting for that. Good series though and definitely worth the watch.

    1. Karenwasherefirst

      This seems to be an example of synergism. I wonder if the crime rate correlates to population increase at 15%.

  23. Jan Brandstrader

    Are there other parts to this documentary?

  24. Cliff Kuhn Lloyd

    The #6 in Sparrows 12:23-12:24

  25. Ang

    watch Fractals it show the new patten Shapes for math

  26. Matt Kukowski

    AH! YES! The Code

  27. Guest

    Trusting the unfolding of life is not to know that you will get what you want
    it is to trust that you will want what you get.

    Kind of like math put in words.

    ps.@Vlatko i tweeked it a bit, sounds better like this, it's original.

    1. Karenwasherefirst

      Alanis Morisette

  28. Yavanna

    I like this doc so much I`m gonna watch it at least 3 times (now vlatko has stopped spamming us anyway)

  29. CyberDog Breath

    Awesome! Food for the mind! The first part contains religious rhetoric assumptions, for instance that the trinity even exists, other than that, awesome document. Covering lots of different aspects of mathematics in quite a few areas of nature, and in a well balanced way. Thank you Vlatko.

    1. Vlatko

      @CyberDog Breath,

      Yes, really awesome documentary. Little slow at times.

      I was stunned when watching the third episode, especially the part about Google, which I think is the most powerful tool on the planet at this moment.

      As we know they save every search query (2 billion per day I think) in their huge databases, and they're doing that for years. All that data (when analyzed properly) can predict almost anything, human related.

      Their example was about the flu pandemics. Imagine they can predict flu pandemic even before the thing happening. And that is just a tip of the iceberg.

      It is mind boggling that that is applicable for almost anything. Search query analysis can predict where people want to go on holiday, which car they want to buy, or... DRUM ROLL... how they're going to vote, and finally.... the movement on the stock-market. Incredible.

    2. Yavanna

      Your comment reminds me of the web bot project which predicts the end of the world....................

    3. Vlatko


      Well let put it this way. Imagine someone having a records of the interests, searches and wishes of every man that ever had a contact with the Internet (well that would be 90% porn I guess).

      And they have that. "The Code" in that data can be used to predict things for sure.

      Edit: Wait... this came out wrong.

    4. Emile Tenia

      Forgive me, but i didn't know you could access the other two episodes as well. For some reason I can't.
      It is an interesting doc though.. Are those episodes currently posted as well?

    5. CyberDog Breath

      What is even more scary is google analytics, which is embedded into almost every single website, this tracks every person on every site, and all this is linked back to you via one of your google accounts like gmail or youtube, and this in turn is linked to your google searches, which means that almost every single person on the internet can be tracked, every single site you go to, every single search you make. Not only that, but with some algorithms google is able to tell who is actually doing the searches.

  30. smugg

    it's fascinating and amusing to see how we are obsessed with finding patterns and creating maps... why it's so difficult to accept that the fact that there s no map is a map itself, what about "no one is in charge because no one really knows what is going on??". is that too scary for us poor miserable educated primates???

    1. Juraj Filkorn

      like america was found by a daring voyage, mathematicians are exploring new lands aswell, and I am enjoing their exploits. anyway I never heard the fact you are talking about.

  31. bdk101

    I must say BBC makes an excellent thought provoking program. I wonder based on this mathematical equation how long our earth is going to survive ..

  32. Truthseeker420

    "discovers that the answer to life the universe and everything isn’t 42"

  33. Truthseeker420

    17 minutes in and i had to pause it because I'm so dang HAPPY! THANKS VLATKO!

  34. Achems_Razor

    This is a good doc, saw it before, worth a second watch.

    1. NAND Gate

      Well done Achems. Out of 10 comments, yours is the only sane one.

  35. delano_goodin

    At 12:24 in the third film the birds form an almost perfect 6. Or upside down 9.

    1. NAND Gate

      ........and? Are you trying to imply that watching "The Code" now qualifies you to see patterns in random events? The entire premise of this doco is to help people dismiss superstition and recognise other underlying factors - not the opposite.

    2. TheSatyaYuga

      Dude, chill. It's only natural for people to see patterns in random events. We've been doing it for thousands of years...

    3. TheSatyaYuga

      Your right

    4. Sand

      Obviously fake, its quite easy to manipulate a movie.

  36. anuragawasthi

    Coming to Nos. ...Hinduism considers 108 as the most important no.

    1)The distance of Sun from Earth divided by diameter of Sun and distance of Moon from Earth divided by diameter of Moon is approximately equal to (approx)108.

    2)The pre-historic monument Stonehenge is about 108 foot in diameter.

    3)The Chinese school of martial arts agrees with the South Indian school of martial arts on the principle of 108 pressure points.

    4)108 = 6² + 6² + 6², the sum of the squares of the three equal numerals making up the Biblical-Apocalyptic "number of the Beast", 666.

    5)Astronomically, there are 27 constillations in our galaxy, and each one them
    has 4 directions, and 27 * 4 = 108,

    6)In one minute, we breathe in approximately 15 times, in 1 hour 900 times,
    and in 12 hours 10800 times, and in a day 10800 * 2 times. A day consists
    of 24 hours,

    1. morgmorg

      also: 9=1+0+8 and 0=1*0*8.
      and at 90km/h the stopping distance for a car is about 66 meters which is 2*33 meters which is 2*108 feet! :O

    2. Karenwasherefirst

      There are more then 27 constellations.

  37. Xercès Des Stèles

    you gotta love how this bbc documentary starts off with children whispering 666

    1. knowledgeizpower

      Crazy isn't it :0...