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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Cast Away (2000)

Chuck Noland (John Hanks) the sole survivor of a plane crash ends up stranded on an island and is trying to figure out what his chances are of being found.

(talking to a volleyball with a face painted on it) We were in route to Memphis for 11 1/2 hours at about 475 miles/hour. So, they think that we are right here, but we went out of radio contact and flew around that storm for about an hour. So, that’s a distance of what 400 miles. 400 miles squared that’s 160000 times Pi … 3.14 (mumbling, doing the multiplication) 502400. That’s a search area of 500000 square miles. That’s twice the size of Texas. They may never find us.

Hero (talking to his friend): We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and knew she had to let me go. I added it all up, knew that I had lost her.