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James Grime

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James Grime
BornJames Grime
(1980-10-13) 13 October 1980 (age 43)
United Kingdom
🎓 Alma materLancaster University, University of York
💼 Occupation
Known forPopular mathematics

James Grime is a British mathematician and speaker formerly for the Millennium Mathematics Project at the University of Cambridge[1] whose areas of work include group theory, number theory and combinatorics. He is also known for his work in popular mathematics, including his discovery of Grime dice, as well as his contributions to the mathematics YouTube channel Numberphile.

Early life and education[edit]

James Grime was born in Nottingham.[2] Grime has stated that he always excelled in mathematics as a schoolchild, although he wasn't always aware of his own ability.[3] He had decided not to study mathematics for his A Levels, until one of his teachers convinced him otherwise. As a child, he enjoyed watching television and had aspirations for a media career. He later cited his childhood experience of watching educational programs, in particular Johnny Ball and the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, as an introduction to the career of mathematics outreach.[3]

After high school, his family moved to Lancaster and Grime studied mathematics as an undergraduate at Lancaster University. Grime has stated that he chose to study mathematics in part because of his laziness, “maths is a good subject for lazy people – there’s no books to read, there’s no essays to write”.[4] He progressed to post-graduate study at the University of York, specialising in representation theory and combinatorics. He received his PhD under supervisor Maxim Nazarov.[5]

After receiving his qualifications, Grime worked in academia but sought a career in mathematics outreach. He wanted to "earn his stripes" in academia before pursuing a media career.[2]

Popular mathematics[edit]

Grime is most known for his work in popular mathematics, which aims to present mathematics to a general audience. Grime delivered Star Trek: Math of Khan, a lecture sponsored by the Simons Foundation that explored the mathematics of Star Trek.[6] He argued against the basis of the popular "Redshirts always die" trope, showing statistically that Goldshirts die at a higher rate.[7] Grime has written popular mathematics articles for The Guardian, covering topics such as Cheryl's Birthday and the sinuosity of rivers.[8][9]

Enigma Project[edit]

Grime joined the Millennium Mathematics Project, an outreach project run by the University of Cambridge to promote mathematics to schoolchildren and the general public. As part of the programme, he ran the Enigma Project, where he toured schools in the UK and overseas with an original, operational Enigma machine.[10] The Enigma machine is a 20th century encryption device which was used by Nazi Germany in World War II. The machine was eventually cracked by Allied codebreakers, including Alan Turing and other British mathematicians at Bletchley Park, in an effort generally seen by historians as significantly contributing to the Allied victory in the war.[11] Grime used the tours to show students the exciting aspects of mathematics and cryptanalysis, and to inspire them into considering a mathematics career.[12] Although the Enigma Project ended its regular tours in 2014, Grime is the current custodian of the machine, which is owned by British author Simon Singh. Grime continues to tour around the world with the machine.[13][2]

Grime Dice[edit]

Grime discovered a set of five nontransitive dice, which have come to be known as Grime dice[14][15]. This set has two nontransitive chains: (A>B means dice A beats dice B)

  • Blue>Magenta>Olive>Red>Yellow>Blue
  • Red>Blue>Olive>Yellow>Magenta>Red
Grime dice
Colour Pips
Blue 2 2 2 7 7 7
Magenta 1 1 6 6 6 6
Olive 0 5 5 5 5 5
Red 4 4 4 4 4 9
Yellow 3 3 3 3 8 8

The first chain is ordered alphabetically, while the second is ordered by word length. All the winning probabilities are at least 5/9. When two dice are used, the second chain (by word length) reverses. The first chain remains, however there is one exception; Olive now loses to Red with a probability of 48%. This allows a player to choose a die to defeat two opponents simultaneously, regardless of the opponents' choices. There are sets of nontransitive dice that are subsets of the set of five Grime dice. Any three consecutive dice in the chain ordered by word length and any four consecutive dice in the chain ordered alphabetically form a set of nontransitive dice.[14]


After studying at university, Grime worked in academia but had aspirations about a career in mathematics outreach. He had unsuccessfully applied for a position at the Royal Institution alongside Marcus du Sautoy. This prompted him to start a mathematics YouTube channel, singingbanana, with the aim of practicing his media skills.[2] This channel is still active and has more than 19 million views.[16] Since 2011, Grime has appeared in videos for Numberphile, an educational YouTube channel by Australian filmmaker Brady Haran. Haran had received a grant from YouTube to make a mathematics channel and asked Grime to participate.[2] Their first video was about the number eleven. Grime has presented many videos on different topics, many of them relating to number theory, including Mersenne primes, Euler's number, the duodecimal system, the abc conjecture and taxicab numbers. As of May 2019, Grime has appeared in more than 60 videos and the channel has more than 2.9 million subscribers.[17]

Maths Gear[edit]

Along with Steve Mould and Matt Parker, Grime runs Maths Gear, an online store which sells recreational mathematics items, including Grime dice.[18]


The Bizarre World of Nontransitive Dice[15] was included in the 2018 edition of Mircea Pitici's annual Best Writing on Mathematics series. Pitici describes Grime's dice as "subtly mischievous".[19] Mashable listed two of Grime's Numberphile videos amongst eight videos that "prove that math is awesome", describing Grime's presentation of infinity "mind-blowing".[20] Grime has been praised for his accessible explanations of complex topics.[21][22] On the success of Numberphile, Grime has said that it was “unexpected”, but “shows that people underestimate how interested people are about maths around the world”.[4]


  • The hook fusion procedure for Hecke algebras, The Journal of Algebra, 2007[23]
  • The Bizarre World of Nontransitive Dice: Games for Two or More Players, The College Mathematics Journal, 2017[15]


  1. "Dr James Grime". 2015-12-03. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Haran, Brady (2019-05-20). "The Singing Banana - with James Grime". Numberphile Podcast. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kapadia, Huzefa (2014-11-14). "EP 146: Numberphile Mathematician James Grime on Why Math Matters". Scalar Learning. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "James Grime: Numberphile, Enigma and the Beauty of Maths". The Update. 2018-06-06. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  5. "James Grime - The Mathematics Genealogy Project". Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  6. Lewin, Sarah (2017-04-13). "Redshirts Aren't Likeliest to Die — and Other 'Star Trek' Math Lessons".
  7. "Well, it turns out Redshirts are not more likely to die on 'Star Trek'". Me-TV Network. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  8. Grime, James (2015-04-15). "Why the Cheryl birthday problem turned into the maths version of #TheDress". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  9. Grime, James (2015-03-14). "A meandering tale: the truth about pi and rivers". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  10. "Millennium Mathematics Project". Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  11. Copeland, Jack (2012-06-19). "Turing saved 'millions of lives'". Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  12. Curtis, Adrian (2018-10-11). "Pupils have a cracking time with Enigma cipher machine at Cambridge school". Cambridge Independent. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  13. "Code-breaking Second World War machine visits Taunton School". Somerset County Gazette. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Non-transitive Dice". Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Grime, James (January 2017). "The Bizarre World of Nontransitive Dice: Games for Two or More Players". The College Mathematics Journal. 48 (1): 2–9. doi:10.4169/college.math.j.48.1.2. ISSN 0746-8342.
  16. "singingbanana YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics -". Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  17. "numberphile YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics -". Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  18. "About Us". Maths Gear. Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  19. Pitici, Mircea (2018-12-04). The best writing on mathematics 2018. Pitici, Mircea, 1965-. Princeton. ISBN 9780691188720. OCLC 1053623331. Search this book on
  20. Hockenson, Lauren. "8 Videos That Prove Math Is Awesome". Mashable. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  21. Bennett, Jay (2016-07-08). ""Anti-Prime" Numbers Secretly Rule Your Life". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  22. "Guess What? The 'Good Will Hunting' Maths Problem Was Relatively Easy". HuffPost UK. 2013-03-05. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  23. Grime, James (2006-05-23). "The hook fusion procedure for Hecke algebras". Journal of Algebra. 309 (2): 744–759. doi:10.1016/j.jalgebra.2006.06.024.

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