Restarting Civilisation – Episode 15
Richard Feynman once said: ‘If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms-little particles that that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.’
So, we asked the people featured in this app what scientific idea they would like in their back pocket in the event we had to restart civilisation.
All the different strands of mathematics in a single statement.
I’ve heard Brian Cox say the scientific method, and I like that. I’d give them the equation ei ? + 1 = 0, known as Euler's identity, or De Moivre's theorem. That contains e which is all exponentials and logarithms and calculus; i, which is complex numbers; ? which is geometry; + and 1, all the different strands of mathematics in a single statement. Now, if the person who was standing round representing the new civilisation hadn’t done any maths, it might take them a while to crack that, but it’s pretty cool.