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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


The Manhatten Project (1986)

Everybody is trying to dismantle the atomic bomb that wizkid Paul Stephens (Christopher Collet) had put together.

1:06:00 (on DVD player)
GENERAL: At least we have 999 hours to dismantle it.
SCIENTIST: I don’t think so. Time-based circuits tend to deteriorate exponentially, faster and faster. You see?
We are shown the counter on the bomb 999:57:27.
GENERAL: How much time do we have?
SCIENTIST: I don’t know. It’s in exponential decay.
GENERAL: Can’t you just answer the goddamned question?
SCIENTIST: I never was any good at math. All right….
Starts punching away at a pocket calculator
…as y approaches infinity, t=1+1/n to the
PAUL: to the nth.
SCIENTIST: Right. You’re a bright kid. You ought to do something with it. Ok, I make it just about three minutes to zero.