This page is part of the website

Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Patch Adams (1998)

Patch Adams (Robin Williams) commits himself to an insane asylum.
Arthur Mendelson one of the inmates of ??? asylum does some calculations on a sheet of paper.

He is also in the habit of showing people four fingers and asking them how many fingers they see, to then turn away in disgust when they answer ‘Four’.
HERO: May I come in?
MENDELSON: If you bend your medial collateral ligaments and place one talus in front of another I don’t see where you’d have a problem. Of course, if there was a news story covering this event, the headline might read “Small Brain Enters Room.”
HERO: The fingers. What is the answer?
MENDELSON: Oh, you’re another one of those bright young fellows who always know the answer, is that it? Welcome to real life.
Mendelson’s cup is leaking and hero fixes it, which seems to impress Mendelson. He picks up hero’s hand and shows him four fingers.
MENDELSON: How many do you see?
HERO: There are four fingers, Arthur.
MENDELSON: No, no, look at me.
HERO: What?
MENDELSON: You are focussing on the problem. If you focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution. Never focus on the problem. Look at me! How many do you see. No, look beyond the fingers. How many do you see?
By gazing through at Arthur beyond the fingers hero sees all fingers double.
HERO: Eight.
MENDELSON: Eight, eight. Yes, yes. Eight’s a good answer. Yes. See what no one else sees. See what everyone else chooses not to see out of fear conformity or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.