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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Story of 1 (review)

It’s not just the story of one, the first number, but the story of how humanity developed the concept of numbers itself: how organized warfare and powerful monarchies created the need for really big numbers, how zero revolutionized mathematical thinking, how taxes and accounting led to the changeover from Roman numerals to the Arabic ones we use today (numerals that are, in fact, Indian, and not Arabic at all). Terry Jones hosts this short BBC documentary, which aired in America on PBS earlier this year, and it is as whimsical and cheeky as you’d expect from a Monty Python alum. But it’s also little more than a superficial introduction to some extraordinary ideas, making it unenlightening — though still mildly entertaining — for anyone already acquainted with basic mathematical theory. Expect it to become an elementary-school perennial. Ironically, there isn’t even one bonus feature.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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