Class meetings: W 5:00-6:30pm, 736 Evans Hall

Office hours: F 4:00-6:00pm, 821 Evans Hall

Course Control Number: 53808

"Something's going on. It has to do with that number. There's an answer in that number." Maximilian Cohen, in π (1998).

This course will offer an exploration of mathematics through the lens of a camera, the stage of a theater, and the language of a book. Can mathematics as a science, the thrill of its pursuit, or the idiosyncrasies of its practitioners be accurately portrayed in these media? Is such an accurate portrayal at all necessary or important? What societal beliefs and misconceptions are reflected in the works of literature and film dealing with mathematics? What is behind the stereotype of a crazy mathematician? How can one tell a compelling story about math to a non-mathematical audience? We will meet once a week to watch, read, argue about, and (try to) understand the mathematics within the world of literature and film. Besides reading and viewing, the students will be expected to take a very active part in class discussion and to make short presentations, which could include critique of a movie fragment, analysis of a literary text, or even a short mathematical proof. This class is intended for students with substantial interest in mathematics, film and literature.

- 09/04: Introduction. Class content. Formation of presentation groups.
- 09/11: Special event Math in the Movies
by Tony DeRose of Pixar replaces class.
- 09/18: Good Will Hunting
presented by Olga Holtz.

Themes: what do unrecognized genius, psychotherapy and advanced math have in common?

The mathematics that made it into the film and the mathematics that didn't. - 09/25: A Beautiful Mind,
presented by Trenton and Mitchell.

Themes: Mathematics and insanity. What is genius (once again) and how it is portrayed.

Comparisons between the film and the biographic novel about John Nash. - 10/02: Special screening at Colorflow at the Saul Zaentz Center.
- 10/09: 2001:
A Space Odyssey, presented by Mario and Jordan.

Themes: Human intelligence versus machine intelligence. Do machines really think?

To what extend can a machine imitate a human? What would be the next step of evolution beyond humans? - 10/16: Fermat's Room, presented by
Amy and Thomas.

Themes: Puzzles in and outside mathematics.

What is math intelligence? Rivalry among mathematicians: the good, the bad and the ugly.

What are open problems in mathematics: important fundamental questions or difficult puzzles? - 10/23: 21
presented by Olivia.

Themes: Card games, gambling, and probability theory. The scheme implemented in "21".

The novel Bringing Down the House and the real story behind the film. - 10/30: The Shining, presented by Anthony.

Themes: hidden patterns, meanings, space and time in the film and the novel on which it is based. - 11/06: Logicomix: a conversation with computer scientist and writer Christos Papadimitriou.

- Burkard Polster and Marty Ross. Math Goes to the Movies. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN-10: 1421404842
- James Monaco. How to Read a Film: Movies, Media and Beyond. Oxford University Press, USA; 4th edition. ISBN-10: 0195321057
- Alexander Nazaryan's article "Why writers should learn math" in the New Yorker

- Media Resources Center at the Moffitt Library
- Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Last modified: Nov 5, 2013