A very mixed bag today, with a tape that starts with the end of an episode of Hidden Empire.
There’s a trailer for Trade Secrets.
Then, Horizon, usually interesting, but here’s a genuine delight. It’s Fermat’s Last Theorem, Simon Singh’s documentary about Andrew Wiles, and his years-long work in trying to find a solution to a mathematical problem that had eluded mathematics for hundreds of years.
It opens with a remarkable piece of film, as Wiles tries to describe how he felt when he had his fundamental revelation about the problem, and he can’t complete his sentence because he’s so choked up.
Wiles became fascinated by maths at the age of 10 when he read about Fermat’s last theorem, a problem that can be stated so simply a child can understand it, but whose proof was undiscovered.
But when Wiles graduated in the 1970s, Fermat was a bit old hat, so his specialty was a branch of mathematics called Elliptic Curves. Which are neither elliptical nor curves. They’re more like doughnuts.
But in Japan, two mathematicians, Yutaka Taniyama and Goro Shimura, were working on a different area, modular forms, and they developed a conjecture that every modular form had a corresponding elliptic function.
Along with another conjecture, the Frey conjecture, which linked modular forms to expressions of the form in Fermat’s last theorem in such a way that if the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture were proved correct, that that would prove Fermat’s last theorem was also correct. And this discovery was the point at which Andrew Wiles knew he would be working on proving Taniyama-Shimura, and therefore Fermat’s Last Theorem.
After seven years, using many different pieces of modern mathematics, he presented a series of lectures at a mathematics conference, at the end of which, he showed his proof of the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture and, by extension, Fermat’s last theorem. “I think I’ll stop there” he said at the end of the lecture.
But, in a twist that wouldn’t be out of place in a movie, there was a problem with the solution, a problem with one of the mathematical methods he had adopted for part of the proof, rendering his proof incorrect.
So he goes back, and tries to fix the area that was incorrect, and it seems like the proof might be slipping away, until he has another insight, that allows him to take a method he had previously discarded, modify it, using ideas he had tried on the faulty piece of the proof, which gave him the answer he needed, and the proof of the conjecture.
It’s a rousing, emotional climax to the story, and I have to confess, I do well up when it gets to the end.
I also love Goro Shimura’s reaction to news of the proof of his and Taniyama’s conjecture. “I told you so.”
I do wish I understood the underlying mathematics of this a bit more. I’ve read Simon Singh’s related book, but even that doesn’t really get very much deeper into all the different mathematical fields. And any solution that took 7 or 8 years of work to arrive at, pulling ideas from dozens of other mathematicians, would probably need a couple of degrees and a PhD to understand. So I have to content myself with loving the feeling of the solution as told by Wiles and the rest of the mathematicians in the programme.
As an extra treat for you, this is one of the programmes that the BBC has permanently in its archive collection on iPlayer. You can watch it here. It’s totally worth it.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th January 1996 – 20:00
After this, there’s a trailer for Our Friends in the North.
Then recording switches to the end of a Panorama about antibiotic resistant MRSA.
There’s a trailer for Omnibus on Gospel music.
Then, Film 96 (not Film 95 as my database says) and Barry Norman’s verdicts on the following films.
There’s a report from Kirsty Young about copycat violence, after an instance of real-life violence was allegedly inspired by a scene in Money Train.
There’s also a report from Tom Brook about Sabrina. Here’s Harrison Ford in an unlikely moustache.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 15th January 1996 – 22:10
After this, there’s a trailer for The X Files, then recording switches to BBC One, and the end of Newsroom South East.
Weather with Bill Giles follows, and a trailer for the X Files again. There’s also a trail for French & Saunders.
Then, the announcer introduces the next programme rather oddly. “Men can do it too, you know. The BBC is an open door.” Is that some kind of dig a equal opportunities? Feels like it.
And now, another episode of Britain’s Favourite Sitcom Ever, Men Behaving Badly. The Rabid Puppies of BBC awards shows.
I’d just like to ask, WTF is it with graphic designers being entirely happy with squashing pictures, even in title sequences? Was cropping the picture not an option? Did we spend those years in the 80s and 90s training a whole generation of VT editors not to give a shit about aspect ratios? It might explain why All4 are unable to show 4:3 material correctly on TVs, and have been so unable for about five years.
I’m really using patience with MBB. The plot of this episode is that Gary thinks Tony is gay, and it’s really bothering him. No, really. That’s basically it.
Britain’s Favourite Ever Sitcom ladies and gentlemen.
Plus, Tony’s wearing a Global Hypercolor t-shirt.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 16th January 1996 – 21:30
Recording switches to an episode of Newsnight, with a report on pirate radio stations, featuring comments from Trevor “Madhatter” Nelson. Never heard that nickname before.
Following this, there’s an episode of The Larry Sanders Show. It’s Larry’s birthday. The show has hired a new writer, and Jerry (Jeremy Piven) is told that he’s fired because of his various unprofessional behaviours in the past.
Sugar Ray Leonard cameos.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th January 1996 – 23:15
After this, recording switches again, for an episode of ER. It’s the first episode where we meet Lucy Liu and her baby with Aids, and when Kathleen Wilhoite abandons her baby to Susan Lewis.
After this, yet another recording switch, and more from Newsroom South East. There’s weather from Rob McElwee.
There’s a trailer for Inside Story, and one for The Lenny Henry Show.
Then, an episode of French & Saunders. There’s a problem with the movie pastiches in these episodes when you aren’t familiar with the style or movie being pastiched. This one has is doing Italian movies, but my knowledge of that genre is almost zero, so it leaves me a bit cold.
Sue Barker makes a guest appearance in a Wimbledon piece.
Kate Moss makes a cameo.
Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are Jennifer’s posse
And then suddenly, it all turns into Noel’s House Party
Dawn plays Blobby
Felicity Kendal is a visitor to the house, and in a brilliantly meta joke, she refers to Jennifer, playing Noel Edmonds, as ‘Edmondson’. I almost missed all the levels of that gag.
This spoof is tonally perfect.
Not sure why they misspell Edmondson for this caption.
There’s also a spoof of the Cranberries. Because of course there is. Their lead singer died at the beginning of the week (as I write this) and there’s already been one sideways reference to her on the blog. I feel so responsible.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 18th January 1996 – 21:30
Following this, there’s a trailer for Saturday Night programmes.
Then, the start of Inside Story on the search for a new boy band. The tape ends after a few minutes.
- General Accident
- HP Sauce
- Halls Soothers
- Migraleve Duo
- trail: Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael
- Ford Galaxy
- Harvest Crunch
- Dalton’s Weekly
- Benylin 4Flu
- Radiohead – The Bends
- Boots Opticians
- Colman’s of Norwich
- Harvest Crunch
- Fiat Bravo/Brava
- Cheltenham & Gloucester
- Hewlett Packard