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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001)
Part 3 about a mathematician Pyecraft.

Have you thought any more about applying for the Moebius prize.

PYECRAFT: So much for Radii and now we turn to the matter of the circumference, the distance in other words around round objects.
KID: So what's your circumference (he is very fat).
All kids laugh.


VIOLET: I wonder whether you would be
PYECRAFT: able to help you with those differentials? Yes, of course Violet.

PYECRAFT: The first number with two distinct factors.
PYECRAFT: The sum of three consecutive cubes
PYECRAFT: A tricky fellow. The third number whose reciprical is of maximal length. 1/19th equals 0.052631578947368421
PYECRAFT: There is actually nothing very interesting about the number 39. But of course when one thinks about it in this way makes it especially interesting number because it is the smallest number having the property.
VIOLET: The smallest number having the property being uninteresting. So, its interesting and uninteresting at the same time.

WELLS GIRLFRIEND: He wasn’t making these calculations up, was he?
WELLS: He is a mathematical prodigy.
GIRLFRIEND: It’s as though all the figures were as real to him as a piece of butter toast.
WELLS: He found three proofs of Riemann’s Hypothesis when he was just 15 years old.

Pyecraft wants to hang himself and is mumbling some calculations
...23 stone, 16 feet per second and a drop of 3 feet, 2 loops should surely be enough (??)

PYECRAFT talking to himself: 4 Hobbs lane square root of 16, yes.

Enters competition for Moebius prize
Title of his topic: “ Simplicity in Mathematics”

PYECRAFT: At least I have mastered the mathematics of it. Action and reaction. Simple Newtonian forces. … Will you please bring me some books: Canon transcendentals, Foken Seeton (??) Set theory, Extra non-palindromic cubes
WELLS: A bit of heavy reading for this time.
PYECRAFT: Exactly.

Differential equations

Newspaper: Mobius prize candidates

Albert Einstein on the train.
WELLS: When does this train reach Oxford?
EINSTEIN: Perhaps you are asking the wrong question. Would it not be equally true and perhaps more revealing to ask: When does Oxford reach this train?

Math writing on a blackboard

writes qed at the end, takes a bow and says: Et voila.
PROFESSOR: And now Albert Pyecraft on: Simplicity in Mathematics.
PYECRAFT: Simplicity.
Doesn’t know what to say until Violet enters the room.
PYECRAFT: Gentlemen, simplicity, why not start here (starts to wipe out things on the blackboard until something equivalent and much simpler is left). You see, it’s exactly the same result, but simpler. Normally, there is nothing more pleasant than a well-formed differential, but let’s see what happens when we get rid of them. … An equation is like a person, when you see past their exterior and into their heart.
PROFESSOR2: Elegant.
PROFESSOR3: I’m not quite sure I follow.
PYECRAFT: Hah, partial derivatives, fine fellows but they’ll have to go.
PROFESSOR: A revolution in probability theory.
PROFESSOR: Astrodynamics (?) will never be the same.
EINSTEIN: This changes everything.
PYECRAFT: Talking to the simpler formula: Pleased to make your acqaintance.
PROFESSOR announces: The Moebius prize for mathematics goes to Jean Le Grand. (everybody disappointed) I have something to add. 179 years ago on the death of Isaac Newton the professorial chair he held here fell null and vacant. No candidate of suitable powers to fill this post and do honour to his name has yet been found, until today. Albert Justus Pyecraft, with the authority vested in us as centors of this university we hereby appoint you to the chair of mathematics.

Down to three shaves a day my old man.
Pyecraft tells me that the effect will continue to diminish exponential though never disappear entirely.