The beauty of math and Pi: Ken Ono chats with Neil deGrasse Tyson on 'StarTalk'

By Carol Clark | Oct. 26, 2016

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What do you get when you add an astrophysicist and a number theorist to a comedian? A fun conversation when those variables are (from left) National Geographic Channel's Neil deGrasse Tyson, Emory mathematician Ken Ono and stand-up comic Eugene Mirman.

“Math is one of the most feared subjects in school,” says astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the National Geographic Channel’s “StarTalk,” to kick off an upcoming episode with Emory number theorist Ken Ono. “The phrase, ‘I was never good at math’ is probably uttered more than ‘I was never good’ at any other subject. What gives there?”

“Think of it this way,” Ono responds. “If you were an athlete, training for a marathon, you wouldn’t just expect to be fast at it. You’d have to practice. I think the reason people say they’re not good at math is because there’s this belief that if you’re good at math you’re just born with it. And that’s just so untrue.”

You can see a clip from the episode, to air Monday, Nov. 7 at 11 p.m., on eScience Commons.

Ono and deGrasse, who are also joined by comedian Eugene Mirman, discuss everything from serial killers to the beauty in hidden patterns and how the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan tamed Pi.

The episode, which is devoted to Ramanujan, will also feature actor Jeremy Irons. He will discuss his role as the mathematician G. H. Hardy, Ramanujan's mentor, in the film "The Man Who Knew Infinity." Ono served as an associate producer and the mathematical consultant for the film.

Ono and Irons will also be featured in a White House panel discussion as part of an event entitled "Math and the Movies" on Friday, Oct. 28. You can watch the event live, starting at 5:30 p.m., via this link.

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