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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Twilight Zone: I of Newton (1985)

Sam, a mathematics professor (Sherman Hemsley) is puzzling over a problem at the background. The camera pans over his calculations on the blackboard. We see a book “Geometry Exposed” on his desk.

SAM: The integral of d of x over cosine to the n of x is … ah … sine x over n minus one, times the cosine to the … No, No! Sam searches amongst a table of screwed-up papers. He thinks he has found what he’s looking for and goes back to the blackboard. To the n minus one, x plus n minus 1. No! That can’t be it! He searches again. n minus two over n minus one, to the integral … Dammit! I’d sell my soul to get this thing right!
The devil (Ron Glass) appears, and begins a discussion over the selling of the professor’s soul.

DEVIL: O.K. Here’s the deal. All that mathematical lingo you were spouting, it’s beautiful, Man, it’s like poetry. Brought tears to my eyes.

SAM: Yeah, well, you can just go back to whatever Stigeon depths you came from Fella, because I have no intention, thank-you, of selling my soul for the solution of any equation.

DEVIL: I know just the buyer for you. There’s this world where the dominant life forms are living sentient binary digits. You could be a decimal! In time, work your way up to a fraction!

Having defeated the devil, Sam goes back to his mathematical problem.
SAM: Well, that guy was no help at all!
REMARKS: It is very difficult to read the mathematics on the blackboard, though it appears to include the Riemann zeta function, and Bernoulli numbers.