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Favourite Discoveries Volume II


Professor Richard Wiseman

I think, as a psychologist, the moment I got so excited about the human mind was simply looking at an optical illusion which was simply two coloured squares and one looked to be darker than the other.  And there was no way to me that they looked to be the same and yet they were.  And so my eyes, my brain, are tripping me up.  And that’s when you suddenly realise that your senses are not telling you what’s out there.  You are constructing your universe.  You have a construction about who you are, who your friends are, what’s around you, what kind of place you live in and so on.  And the moment you realise that, you realise how important psychology is, to understand how we make that construction and how important it is to understand what’s actually beyond it, to understand the real world which is out there rather than the one you’re constructing in your head.  And what will tell you what’s actually out there is science.  Otherwise you’re going to be living in this imaginary universe and a lot of the time you’re going to be tripping yourself up.

Matt Parker

The common answer [in mathematics] actually is Euler’s identity, which is -ei ? + 1 = 0, or rearrangements of that.  It’s not an equation of course, it’s an identity, but it’s amazing because it combines unexpected bits of maths together into one equation.  It’s got the concept of irrational numbers, it’s got transcendental numbers, it’s got negative numbers and unity and zero and powers and imaginary and it’s all there in one.  Now, for me, that is amazing.

Even more amazing is the general form, because the original form is eix = cos x + i sin x , and, again, that’s combining things that we developed from trigonometry with exponentials and powers and complex numbers all in one, and for me, again, it’s different bits of maths that suddenly all link together.