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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross

**Death of a Neapolitan Mathematician (1992)**

This movie was inspired by the mathematician Renato Caccioppoli (1904-1959). Two other mathematicians feature prominently in the movie. Pietro, one of Renato’s students who is about to become a professor himself and Father Simplicio, who is also a priest.

8:00

Renato drawing something mathematical on the wall.

13:00

Renato lecturing. He is proving the Sandwich Theorem from calculus

(three continuous functions f,g,and h. If f\leq g \leq h and \lim_{x\to x_0}
f(x) = \lim_{x\to x_0} h(x)=l, then \lim_{x]to \x_0} g(x)=l. )

STUDENT: Professor, may I ask an off-subject question?

RENATO: Of course

STUDENT: Why was Einstein opposed to quantum theory?

RENATO: According to Einstein God doesn’t play dice, and then you see,
the world of truth in physics as the one in mathematics is as closed as a sphere.
If a new vision is profound, it’s an escape from this sort of prison.
You can have some resistance to escape or you cannot see the reason for it.

14:30

Some of Renato’s students and colleagues talking at lunch.

FATHER SIMPLICIO: Did you read the Mathematical Review?

PIETRO: Yes, I saw it.

FATHER SIMPLICIO: The sixth slashing is a row.

PIETRO: Renato asks for it. He goes to international meetings and mocks the
scientific world. Americans, Swiss….

26:00

Renato has checked some of Pietro’s mathematics

PIETRO: You’ve checked everything. You did it very quickly, but it took
me forever

RENATO: One shouldn’t love math too much. It should love you…

PIETRO: Actually, you did it all over again.

RENATO: Yes, but selfishly. I should have underlined the errors and make you
come to the solution. It would have taken time

….

Turn to formula 25. The exponent is four, not three.

30:00

Some of Renato’s scribblings

32:00

Renato doing some calculations in his apartment.

35:00

blackboard in his apartment

41:00

Pietro talking to father Simplicio.

PIETRO: So this is my work for the chair competition. Renato had to check it,
but started from scratch. I’m grateful. It’s planned in a better
manner, but you know Renato, he rushes sometimes. You have patience, Father
Simplicio and you’ll be discreet about all this. Will you help me check
it through?

FATHER SIMPLICIO: I would give you a hand but it’s too late. Send your
own work in then.

PIETRO: There’s an extension. I phoned Rome this morning.

FATHER SIMPLICIO: Let’s see. A mathematician’s career starts too
early. One, two analysis exams and one almost has to discover a theorem.

PIETRO: You know one doesn’t learn mathematics. It’s an eye you
have inside. It shows you a field of vision.

Immediately. You start young.

FATHER SIMPLICIO: I have no field of vision. I know you have to take it a step
at a time.

52:00

Father Simplicio talking to Renato.

FATHER SIMPLICIO: They’ve pointed out important passages of your work.
They’re delighted. If they can handle it Look: “Thanks to his sets
we’ll have a geometrical measure theory.”

1:01:00

Another lecture theatre scene: Blackboards not clear enough for deciphering
… some integral formula

1:09:00

Student writing on the blackboard. Taylor expansion … remainder tends
to 0…

RENATO: It’s nice to see that woman have brains, too. A five minute suspension
for this young lady.

1:11:00

Renato examining another student. Actually, Father Simplicio is asking all the
questions.

Father Simplicio asking a question: Give me an example where the hypotheses
are not fulfilled, but where the function is implicit.

RENATO: Lauretano, 26.

STUDENT (protesting): You didn’t follow my exam!

RENATO: Did you want a 29? Lauretano, 29. End of the movie.

Obituary:… Renato was the first to study problems in functional analysis
which in the thirties received a great boost with Schauder’s research
in Poland and Leray’s in France.