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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Shrieker (1997)

Math major Clarke (Tanya Dempsey) joins a group of students who are squatting in a deserted hospital. Zak is one of these students, Robert a mysterious stranger who Clarke meets in the basement of the hospital. Someone is conjuring up some murderous monsters, the shriekers, and Clarke is trying to use math to figure out what is going on.

ZAK: So, do you have a major. I know you can’t pick one officially, but do you have one.
ZAK: It’s not something pointless like media studies or education, is it?
CLARKE: No, it’s math.
ZAK: Math major?
CLARKE: Yeah, and I never even owned a pocket protector.
ZAK: I don’t believe all these clichés about math majors.
CLARKE: Yes, you do.
ZAK: Ok, I do, but I’m working really hard not to. No glasses, heh.
CLARKE: No, better than 20/20 vision.

CLARKE: I am in this building because I can’t afford any place else to live. I am at the university because I want to study math. As to why I’m here on Earth, … , to learn maybe.

ROBERT (commenting on some strange symbols on the floor): Nobody has ever been able to translate them before. They say that that’s because these symbols aren’t a language at all, that they are actually equations.

ZAK: So, what are you working on?
CLARKE: This, oh, actually it’s multidimensional topography . You see, you can describe a 4th dimensional object …

CLARKE: Ok, I’ve been looking over your notes and you are completely wrong.
ROBERT: Well, that’s progress at least. Why am I wrong.
CLARKE: You have been treating these symbols as if they were mathematical terms, but they’re not.
ROBERT: Then what are they.
CLARKE: They’re crossections. Look, can I come down and see you? I have some things I want to show you.
ROBERT: I’m here. Come around the back. It’s unlocked.
CLARKE: Right.
CLARKE: See, the even symbols are 2-dimensional crossections of a 3-dimensional shape. The odd symbols are ??? of a crossection, watch.
ROBERT: This is what I think. There are higher dimensions and things live in them. Sometimes there is weak spots between the higher ones and our own where they can break through. And I think sometimes these breakthroughs must happen spontaneously, not often, but there have been other cases.
CLARKE: Like lightning?
ROBERT: That’s right.

Clarke explaining why one of the shriekers has been able to overtake them although this seems physically impossible.
CLARKE: It’s a 3-dimensional crossections. So it can move instantly from one place to the next, even move through walls.