Something doesn’t add up, or does it?

March 14th, 2013 by Ben

The world of mathematics is as vast as it is complex. Whether you are fascinated by it, or you are completely bored by it, one way or another, there is no denying the impact that such a language had over our world and our perception. From the simplest calculations of quantity measurements, to the strongest computer of our modern time, mathematics has allowed us to explore beyond our own planet, reach out to the moon, and helped us understand simple truths like how to find the volume of a container or the circumference of a circle. It is today, on March 14th, that Pi Day is celebrated (3.14, get it? The number of Pi!) and as it happens every year, people eat pies and contemplate the meaning of the equation and why it is so useful to mankind.

We at Jinni wanted to do something similar by bringing you the most remarkable content that mathematics has to offer in movies & TV (excluding some of the obvious films such as Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind.)

Moneyball (2011)

Whilst conventionally known for it’s baseball theme, mathematics is the key element around which the plot of this movie revolves. Baseball manager Billy Beane goes and does the unthinkable – instead of forming a baseball team of experienced, well-known and famous players, he recruits Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale grad that presents him with the statistics and numbers to create a team of no-names, which on paper has the potential to take the world series.

Proof (2005)

They say that genius and insanity almost go hand in hand, and so is the case with Anthony Hopkins who plays Robert – a genius mathematician that develops a mental illness and eventually dies. His daughter Catherine suspects with great dread that she has inherited his insanity. All the while, one of Robert’s ex-students is eager to go through all of his notebooks to see if he can discover a lost spark of genius, put to paper before he passed away. As it commonly is with dramas, this movie is gloomy and contemplative, trying to crack the mystery of the mind, and the promises its future may hold.

Limitless (2011)

The trigger in this movie is a special laboratory-developed drug, which is said to allow one to access their brain’s lost potential. The day Eddie Morra gets his hand on this special drug, he turns from an everyday bum into a genius in practically every subject he sets his mind to. Starting out as a writer, and finishing his book in only 4 days, Eddie then turns to the world of finance, and develops a special algorithm that allows him to see patterns in buying and selling market shares. In just a matter of days, Eddie rises to the top of the financial world, but not without a cost.

Fermat’s Room (2007)

Four mathematicians are invited by a mysterious host to solve the supposedly greatest enigma that ever was. What they soon come to realize is that the more time it takes them to answer the equations they are given, the smaller the room becomes. While calculating for their lives in a highly tense state, these four strangers do their best to figure out what their host’s motives are in trying to plot such an elaborate murder. If you’re looking for great suspense, this is the right equation for you.

Pi (1998)

You can’t talk Mathematics without discussing acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky’s  first feature film “Pi”, which just by name fits this occasion perfectly. Max Cohen is a computer genius and mathematician whose obsession with numbers is so great, he believes that a pattern emerges in everything, even in nature. Once he focuses his attention on Wall Street and the stock exchange, he soon finds himself being chased by stock traders who crave to acquire his method. At the same time, a fast-talking Hasidic Jew tries to understand number patterns in the Bible and seeks Max’s help in solving the Bible’s long lost mystery.

21 (2008)

Ben Campbell is talented and intelligent. So much so, that he is the top of his class. There is one problem though, he doesn’t have the sufficient tuition money to go to Harvard. An opportunity presents itself to Ben in the form of his unorthodox mathematics teacher, Micky Rosa, who teaches him and a small group of gifted students how to count cards in Blackjack. The group of young people go to Las Vegas every weekend and count their way to riches through gambling, until their plan goes awry. “21” is based on a true story, and is very stylized and suspenseful.

The Number 23 (2008)

Jim Carrey is notorious for his comic skills, but it would appear that all it took was numbers to lure him to the land of mystery. Walter Sparrow’s life is turned upside down in this atmospheric, mind-bending thriller, after he reads a book that seems to be imitating Walter’s life in every detail it presents. It doesn’t take long for Walter to become obsessed with the number 23, finding it everywhere, and in everything. He’s doing his best to uncover the truth behind the mysterious book, trying to understand if it’s all merely a coincidence, or if there is some nefarious darkness with ill intentions looming over his life?

Cube (1997)

Despite being a horror flick, this is a unique film, presenting a very original premise: a group of strangers wake up inside a cube-like structure, not knowing how they got there, or why they’re there; and the biggest problem they face, is that certain rooms include life threatening deathtraps. With the help of an intelligent student, they find a way to calculate which rooms are booby-trapped and which are safe according to the rooms’ serial numbers.  It’s interesting to see how different room colors create different psychological effects on the characters of the movie, making it as clever as it is intense.

Numb3rs (2005)

Mathematics can be used to catch criminals as well. This TV show revolves around two brothers – one is an FBI investigator and the other is a brilliant university mathematician. Whenever special agent Don has complications with his cases, he calls on his brother Charlie, who uses mathematical patterns to track and narrow down the whereabouts of wanted criminals that are on the run. The show is engaging, clever, suspenseful and basically has everything you need from a successful investigation show.

The Oxford Murders (2008)

Do I see a pattern here? Correct. Much alike the previous title, in this movie a math student and his professor work together to try and solve a series of murders that seem to be linked with mathematical symbols. Both Elijah Wood and John Hurt contemplate over who done it, and try to break through the riddles and clues that are presented to them. Notably so, unlike the previous title, it isn’t common these days to come across an amateur detective, which is a theme that has become more scarce over time, and for that, I take off my hat in honor of it.

To conclude, mathematics is a universal language, and it is practical as it is philosophical. As I stated at the beginning of this post, it can be boring and I’d believe that’s part of the reason why there isn’t a great deal of content in our catalog that deals with mathematics (only 102 titles). However, the small amount that does exist is very thought provoking and insightful, and is able to create very gripping and engaging topics. It is something that we take for granted on a daily basis and I recommend for everyone to check it out, you might end up having some fun. Smile

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