“Simon on Stage”

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for the delay in sending out this newsletter, but it has been a ridiculously busy start to 2002, as I am currently embarking on a whole range of new projects that will come to fruition later this year. These range from a new TV series on BBC4 to relaunching my website.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things happening this spring.

First, and most exciting of all from my point of view, I am working on a new stage show that will be at London’s Soho Theatre in April. The idea is to present fun and accessible science lectures in a West End venue to see if we can attract a broad audience. I will be appearing with psychologist Richard Wiseman – that’s us in the picture above – and this what we’ll be talking about.

“What are the chances of that happening?” by Simon Singh
We live in a risk society, one in which there are no surefire bets. Doctors offer treatments with only a certain probability of success, climatologists discuss the likelihood global warming, and the dodgy chap on the street corner tempts us with games like 3-card Monty. But can mathematics help us to live longer, predict the future and beat the dealer? Everyone in the audience will get a chance to test their probability skills by placing a free bet – if you win, then I’ll buy you a drink.

“Mental Trickery” by Richard Wiseman
Magic is a complex and skilful art. However, there is more to magic than mere dextrous trickery. Psychology is central to the art of deception, and understanding the way the mind works is an important part of being a magician. In the second half of the show, Richard exposes the psychology behind the tricks. Using magic tricks, demonstrations, video clips, mind games and lots of audience participation, Richard shows how to become a master of deception.

Tickets £8 (£6) No booking fee.
Box Office 020 7478 0100 (24 hours)
17th, 18th, 24th, 25th April, 8pm
Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1.

My second bit of news is the repeat of 5 Numbers on Radio 4. The series starts on March 11 and runs each day that week at 3.45pm (UK time). The BBC is building its own website to accompany the series, but is not yet online, and in due course I will extend and improve my own web pages about “5 Numbers”. The series got a great response on its first airing, which is why the BBC have chosen to repeat it. It’s a fast-paced, slightly off-kilter look at five of the most important numbers in mathematics. If you are in the UK, then you can tune into the Radio 4 wavelengths 93.5 FM or 198 LW or listen via the web .

If you heard “5 Numbers” first time around, then you might be interested to know that I am also working on “5 More Numbers”, which will air later this year or early next year. This is a programme idea that could run and run.

Finally, in future I hope to offer a competition and prize in each newsletter. So here goes …

I recently reviewed “It Must be Beautiful – great equations of modern science”, edited by Graham Farmelo. I started my review with: “Many popular science books shun equations, partly due to overzealous editors who fear that the appearance of anything that looks like mathematics will frighten off potential readers. In contrast, here is a book that relishes equations, which celebrates their power and beauty, and which still manages to explain rather than baffle.”

Here’s the competition question: In my review, I mentioned that CFCs were invented in 1930 by Thomas Midgely. Although a great scientist, I said that he deserved a Nobel Prize for damaging the environment, because of which other scientific development? In other words, Midgely made two contributions to damaging the environment – discovering CFCs was one of them, what was the other?

If you know the answer, then please email it to ….
[Competition closed: the answer is that Midgely put lead in petrol.]

And that’s it.

Simon Singh.