Just 'How long IS a piece of string'?

Sounds like a simple question, right? Simple question = simple answer, right? All you have to do is measure it. But, it’s possible that we take the simple practice of measurement for granted. Imagine a world without it. No distance, no time, no weight, no mass. Not so simple now, you might be saying.

If you’re in the North Texas area and have an hour to spare, tune in tonight at 9:00pm on KERA Channel 13 in North Texas for How Long is a Piece of String? to begin to answer that all-important question that’s been haunting you ever since high school physics. Host, Alan Davies (Whites, Jonathan Creek, QI) attempts to find out the elusive answer to just how long a piece of string really is. In the process, he encounters both the history and current understanding of measurement – a journey that takes him from the maths used to measure the extent of the visible universe right down to the physics of the smallest particles of matter – the quantum world.

MIT physicist Seth Loyd guides Davies through the world of the sub-atomic; Oxford University maths professor Marcus du Sautoy provides the mathematical tools to make the measurements; and high school physics teacher Dr Becky Parker opens Alan’s eyes to the bizarre and counter-intuitive world of the atom.

Given his findings, Davies discovers that his ‘piece of string’ is fractal – made up of endless chains of self repeating patterns – and is therefore infinitely long. Outside the North Texas area? Get out that piece of string and watch the episode below…..this is what television was created for.


  • robert

    the answer is twice as long as half of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!