mathematics goes reality TV!

In 1978 I was on the British team for the 20th International Mathematical Olympiad (recollections of the trip). It was in Romania and the event was prime time news … and I was one of a group interviewed for the news of the event. the following year the 21st IMO was held in London and there was no press coverage that I found whatsoever. OK mathematics is hardly a spectator sport, but the complete British lack of interest in anything remotely intellectual was disturbing.

But now … nearly 30 years later … perhaps things are changing. On Sunday BBC2 are showing a 90min documentary about the olympiad team. Maybe maths will get sexy!

Beautiful Young Minds1
BBC2 Sun 14 Oct, 9:00 pm – 10:30 pm 90mins
Beautiful Young Minds tells the story of some of the brightest mathematical brains of a generation. Each year, exceptionally gifted teenagers from over 90 countries compete for medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad. The film follows a group of brilliant teenagers as they battle it out to become the chosen six selected to represent the UK.

  1. unfortunately the BBC’s own page on this disappeared at the end of the week – why do they do this! – but there are many descriptions and reviews of it on the web including one at [back]

2 thoughts on “mathematics goes reality TV!

  1. Hi, Alan!

    Remember me? I watched the program and was riveted by it – all the refs to Trinity, and mention of Rickard etc brought back memories of yourself and all the other Olympiad participants I knew in those days. I was most upset to hear that John Rickard died in 2002.

    What did you think of the program? Do you think it was edited to make mathematicians seem too nerdy?

    The program even got me downloading some IMO questions to see if I could attempt any of them. Well .. a few of the “Question 1” entries were OK, but I gather they were the easiest ones ..

    Iain Strachan

  2. I recorded the programme, but still not got got round to watching it 🙁

    However, few years ago i recall finding a file with some of the IMP questions and others of similar complexity. What was interesting was that there were some problems that I know I found very difficult then, but I looked at now and thought “what is the problem” they were just ‘obvious’. However, there were others that I know I was able to deal with then that I have no idea even how to start now.

    This difference is partly about knowledge, practice, etc. but also about ways of thinking. When I was 18 I would get stuck into a problem for hours (or days) on end. Now partly through less time, partly through weaker concentration I rarely fight with a problem, but instead tend to ‘think problems away’, find a way of thinking about the problem so that it is no longer a problem anymore.

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