This episode of More or Less was broadcast on Thursday, 3 July, 2003 on BBC Radio 4 at 15:00 BST.
More or Less got (meta)physical. From simple mathematical rules you can create amazingly complex patterns.
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The colours on a snail shell can be described this way, so can the movement of people in a crowd. From simple material patterns to complex social arrangements, there seem to be maths and numbers everywhere.
This is true to such an extent that there are some who argue maths can explain complexity in nature better than evolution.
But is nature really mathematical, is it innately governed by maths? Or is maths simply a tool for describing nature, a human construct? And if it is really inherent in nature itself, can it supplant Darwin?
Plus, how reliable is DNA testing? When, for example, it promises that a match is only possible for 1 in 30 million, is it right?
Producer: Michael Blastland
Editor: Nicola Meyrick