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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Battle of the Worlds (1961)

Professor Benson (Claude Rains) knows everything, lives in a greenhouse and does mathematics on the sides of his flower pots. He is the first to discover the Outsider, a moonlike object, entering our solar system and heading straight for Earth.

DR STEEL: Amazing. How did you do it?
BENSON: Young fellow. You and the others have to see and hear before you can know. I have one advantage over all of you---Calculus. However, I am glad to see that you at least know how to read it. In spite of the disdain in which I hold all your stupid and dull mechanical apparatuses, do you think that I don’t examine carefully the readings that you send me? The difference is that you accept those readings as results, whereas for me they are merely elements in a formula. I have been aware of this thing for the last five days and I’ve been curiously awaiting to see when the rest of you will discover it.
DR STEEL: It was just before dawn that we were able to…
BENSON: Oh, so you didn’t see it until just before dawn.
and didn’t anyone of you notice the change of position of the two outer planets.
Steel: Change of position?
BENSON: Infinitesimal! It merely heralded the arrival of the outsider.

Benson proposes to destroy the Outsider
COMMANDER COLE: Oh, I have faith in Benson, the mathematician, but Benson the cannon maker?

BENSON: Music is language. The language of the bodies in space. Have you never heard of Pythagoras? The harmony of the spheres? The language of numbers?
Nice mad look

After the Outsider and the Benson have gone up in smoke.

COMMANDER COLE: Poor Benson. If they opened up his chest, they’d find a formula where his heart should have been.