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Preface About ten years ago, on a whim, we began to collect movies containing mathematics . Now, as a consequence of that whim, we own a library of more than 800 movies on DVD, VHS, 16 mm, Laserdisc, and some strange thing called a CED video disc. The movies range from those expressly about mathematicians , to those that, for whatever reason, just happen to have a snippet of humorous mathematical dialogue. Over the years, we have found that it is not only professional mathematicians who find the fun in this cinematic mathematics. Just about everybody is charmed by Meg Ryan explaining Zeno’s paradox in I.Q., Danny Kaye singing about Pythagoras’s theorem in Merry Andrew, Lou Costello explaining to Bud Abbott why 7 × 13 = 28 in In the Navy, and so on. Our book, and its accompanying page on our website, is an attempt to identify, organize, and engagingly present this fascinating and funny material. Our intended audience comprises mathematicians, math students, teachers , and more generally anyone who enjoys a Saturday night at the movies (popcorn and all), has some appreciation of mathematics, and has a sense of fun. That is, we’re writing for people like ourselves and our friends, raised on a diet of both modern movie-going and mathematical popularizations by the likes of Martin Gardner. Math in the Movies So Far There have been a number of previous attempts to organize and popularize movie mathematics. The following are particularly notable: • A number of excellent websites (all easily found with Google). Most notable are Arnold G. Reinhold’s The Math in the Movies page and Alex Kasman’s Mathematical Fiction page, both containing lists and summaries of movies with mathematical content. Oliver Knill’s website is a great source for mathematical movie clips. There are also specialized websites, which are extremely comprehensive: Andrew Nestler’s and xi xii Preface Sarah J. Greenwald’s terrific website dedicated to mathematics in The Simpsons; the math section of the Spanish website La Indoblable Página de Bender Bending Rodriguez, dedicated to mathematics in Futurama; and Wolfram’s Numb3rs website, dedicated to math in the TV series NUMB3RS. • A number of mathematical movie festivals, in particular that organized by Michele Emmer and Michele Mulazzani in Bologna in 2000, and the Cinemath festival organized by Robert Osserman and Michael Singer in Berkeley in 2002. • Several articles about mathematics in the movies by some of the most well known popularizers of mathematics, including Keith Devlin and Ivars Peterson.1 • The books and articles by Michele Emmer.2 • The very comprehensive Spanish book Las Matemáticas en el Cine by Alfonso Jesús Población Sáez (Spanish Mathematical Society, 2006). Alfonso also has a companion Cine y mathemàticas website. • The book The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS: Solving Crime with Mathematics by Keith Devlin and Gary Lorden (Plume, 2007). Our Book Our goal is to complement and significantly extend the available information about math in the movies. There is no intention to be truly encyclopedic and to document every last occurrence of math in the movies. There are simply too many boring scenes that are better left unmentioned. Also, except for a few compelling references, we have tended to stick to the movies and to leave TV alone. In particular, we have included only a small fraction of the wonderful math in The Simpsons, Futurama, and Numb3rs. These are huge and worthy projects in themselves, and all have been successfully accomplished elsewhere. We have, however, attempted to be functionally encyclopedic: in conjunction with our website, we have endeavored to hunt down and to describe all the “good stuff,” the scenes we believe are of general appeal and usefulness. Furthermore, our emphasis is really on the math and the fun of seeing it on the big screen, not on anything else. The flipside is that our book probably offers little to experts in cinema studies and serious movie critics. Our source material ranges from the hilariously nonsensical to very nice adaptations of beautiful mathematics. The movies vary from 1984, containing just one (critical) line of mathematical dialogue, to a movie such as π, which has math in almost every scene. 1 Keith Devlin, Math becomes way cool, Devlin’s Angle, November 1998 and Ivars Peterson, Abbott and Costello’s wacky math, Ivars Peterson’s Math Trek, March 2000. 2 See, in particular, Michele Emmer and Mirella Manaresi, Mathematics, Art, Technology, and Cinema (Springer, New York, 2003). Preface xiii To...


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