From The Beautiful Mind towards the Theory of all things anf the husband Who Understood Infinity, Hollywood loves a math wizzard. Why cant it get past the fevered prodigy scribbling equations on home windows?
In the Tina Fey sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, wealthy Manhattanite Jacqueline Vorhees wails to her assistant that they cant manage to get divorced. Despite the fact that shed get $1m for each year of her marriage.
I spend 100 grand per month. Ill be broke in ten years, she wails. No, thats wrong, counters Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), who scribbles some sums having a marker on Mrs Vorheess window. So $100,000 occasions 12 several weeks. Thats $1.2m annually. Divide that into $12m, you will find, youd be broke in ten years. However if you simply invest a lot of it, presuming a 7% rate of return, while using compound interest formula, your hard earned money would almost double.
Kimmy turns round triumphantly: Mrs Voorhees, I mathed, and you may get divorced! Mrs Vorhees eyes Kimmy narrowly. Individuals aren’t, she complains, erasable markers. What she doesnt mention is the fact that math isnt a verb. Not.
The scene is, amongst other things, Feys satire from the Hollywood cliche of genius squiggling on glass. In A Beautiful Mind (2001), for example, Russell Crowe, playing troubled maths star John Forbes Nash Jr, writes formulae on his dorm window. This scene is echoed in The Social Network (2010), where Andrew Garfield sets the equations for Facebooks business design on the Harvard window while Jesse Eisenbergs Mark Zuckerberg looks on. Within the opening scene of excellent Will Hunting (1997), janitor prodigy Matt Damon writes equations on the bathroom mirror.
So why do a lot of Hollywood maths whizzes forego paper? Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin explains. Depicting a math wizzard scribbling formulas on the piece of paper is much more accurate, however it certainly doesnt convey the look of the person amorously involved with mathematics, along with seeing someone write individuals formulas in steam on the mirror or perhaps in wax on the window, neither is it as being cinematographically dramatic.
Good point. Whenever we see a Beautiful Mind and appear with the window at our Russ, Hollywoods most built math wizzard (counterexamples on postcards, please show your workings), we pass beyond incomprehensive equations and convince ourselves were seeing Genius at the office. Even when, as some critics have complained uncharitably, Russs pi glyphs, greater-than and fewer-than symbols and the like dont seem sensible.
But theres one other way maths movies can confound the Monotony Equation, namely by departing a black hole in which the maths ought to be. The Man Who Knew Infinity, the brand new film starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons concerning the great Indian math wizzard Srinivasa Ramanujan, is intriguing in this way. Although we have seen Ramanujan doing maths, mostly the show has an interest in other activities how he falls deeply in love with his wife, the discomfort of separation as he travels from Madras to review at Cambridge, the racism he suffers in England and, most stirringly, the narrative arc from lowly clerk to globally recognised math wizzard.