Five Shapes

Mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy explores intriguing stories behind familiar shapes.

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01The Cube2004083120050919

It's the ideal shape for packing and stacking, but when one supermarket put tomato soup in cube-shaped tin cans, no-one bought it.

Perhaps this highly practical shape is just a little bit too perfect for mainstream taste.

02The Pyramid2004090720050920

Marcus du Sautoy turns to the pyramid.

Egyptian mausoleums, the entrance to the Louvre in Paris and tetrahedral tea bags are well known, but this rather hierarchical shape is remarkably rare in the manufactured world.

Look under the microscope however, and they're everywhere.

03The Sphere2004091420050921

Nature has no problem making them: raindrops are spheres not tears.

But building a perfect sphere remains a challenge for architects and engineers.

04The Bagel2004092120050922

This week's shape is not only good enough to eat, it's the most important shape in maths today.

Marcus du Sautoy explores why it's a good shape for cooking dough, cracking codes and understanding space.

Could the universe have a hole in the middle?

05 LASTThe Blob2004092820050923

Mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy discovers that thanks to computer technology, cartoon characters, curvy cars, and blobby buildings are closely related.