WGBH’s NOVA series will produce a 1-hour documentary and accompanying education and outreach exploring the origins of number theory.
“Zero to Infinity” (wt) tells the story of a mathematician’s quest to understand numbers. In her day job, professor of statistics Talithia Williams ponders the power of data—looking for answers and spotting patterns in huge collections of numbers. But as the anticipated host of “Zero to Infinity,” she takes a step back and turns her attention to the digits themselves—exploring their origins and discovering the wonder that arises from simple, yet profound concepts like nothingness, infinity, and the mysteries embedded in special numbers like primes.
Zero, infinity, even primes—these concepts have taken on great meaning and complexity in our minds and in our lives. Mathematicians probe them and try to understand them. Scientists use them to model the universe and create explanations for our observable reality. But of course, they are also fantastically useful concepts in our daily lives. Zero is implicit in the way an engineer strives for precision and accuracy—working to reduce tolerances in precision machinery to an unreachable zero, for example. Zero’s paradoxes are on full display as chip makers work to double and double again the number of components on a silicon wafer. Computer scientists and modelers of complex systems like weather and economic activity wrestle simultaneously with the very large—ever increasing numbers of data points and variables—with innate limits on the precision of digital calculations and problems of error and digital noise.
Project deliverables include the NOVA documentary, a collection of PBS LearningMedia resources to support high school math education in formal and informal education settings, and virtual outreach events. The project will take millions on an epic journey through our understanding of numbers, one of the greatest—and very much ongoing—testaments to the human mind.