Thursday, October 25, 2007


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mathematics & Madness

I cobbled together this clip from two films that I watched in the same week. The first part is a snippet from a BBC documentary called 'Dangerous Knowledge', about the work and fate of four very important scientists. From the BBC website:
In this one-off documentary, David Malone looks at four brilliant mathematicians - Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing - whose genius has profoundly affected us, but which tragically drove them insane and eventually led to them all committing suicide.
I have already mentioned Turing on this blog before and I certainly recommend watching the full documentary to learn the other men's sad stories. I chose the extract that I did, because of Ludwig Boltzmann's identification with Darwin, and because I myself often wish to sit within a perfect unchanging moment...

The second part of the clip is from Darren Aronofsky's film 'π', about a mathematical genius who attempts to discover patterns in the stock-market, but appears to stumble onto the name of god! Of course all very far-fetched, but it is the protagonists solution to his problem which I found most interesting. Instead of committing suicide, a drill to the head seemingly removes his mathematical ability, and with it the pain and misery of his math-angst.

Anyway, I can't help but feel an affinity with all these characters, both real and imagined, even if their solutions seem a little drastic...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007