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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross

**Sneakers (1992)**

Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) is hired by men posing as NSA agents to steal a code breaking device developed by the mathematician Dr. Gunter Janek.

14:40

FAKE NSA MAN: This is a mathematician named Dr. Gunter Janek. Works at a think
tank called the Coolidge Institute. Specializes in large-number theory, prime
numbers, factoring.

MARTIN: Cryptography?

20:30

Janek giving a lecture

JANEK: While the number-field sieve is the best method currently known, there
exists an intriguing possibility for a far more elegant approach. Here we would
find a composition of extensions, each Abelian over the rationals, and hence
contained in a single cyclotomic field. Using the Artin map, we might induce
homomorphisms from the principal orders in each of these fields that z by f
z. These maps could then be used to combine splitting information from all the
fields…

Interspersed with this

…

LIZ: This isn’t just about large-number theory. It’s about cryptography.

MARTIN: You mean codes?

LIZ: I mean unbreakable codes.

JANEK: … this in turn would require the standard Kummer extensions that
nontorsion form of the Jacobians of the Fermat curves gives rise to. It would
be a breakthrough of Gaussian proportions and allow us to acquire the solution
in a dramatically more efficient manner. Now, I should emphasise that such an
approach is purely theoretical. So far, no one has been able to accomplish such
constructions, yet.

At a party following the lecture

JANEK: The numbers are so unbelievably big all the computers in the world could
not break them down. But maybe, just maybe there is a shortcut.

39:34

Anagrams are used extensively in the movie to show some kind of encryption/decryption
mechanism at work. In this scene Martin is using Scrabble pieces to come up
with anagrams of the expression Setec astronomy (-> Too many secrets).

Anagrams were also used to good effect in the title sequence where anagrams
of meaningful expression are unscrambled into these expressions.

A TURNIP CURES ELVIS -> UNIVERSAL PICTURES

(UNIVERSAL PICTURES PRESENTS)

A FEW ASTRAL CLERKS REPEL NEWARK -> LAWRENCE LASKER

WALTER F. PARKES

(A LAWRENCE LASKER WALTER F. PARKES PRODUCTION)

BLOND RHINO SPANIEL -> PHIL ALDEN ROBINSON

(A PHIL ALDEN ROBINSON FILM)

FORT RED BORDER -> ROBERT REDFORD48:30