## Maths Illustrated
John Nash, played by Russell Crowe in Mr. Crowe's understanding of the nature of mathematical discovery is revealed by his insight "Nash's mind is much more the way we think of an artist's mind, rather than a scientist's mind," quoted in production notes published with the Newmarket shooting script. Math consultant Dave Bayer's contributions to A Beautiful Mind are described in an
article in
Science. He was asked to make the "mathematics reflect Nash's descent into mental illness
and his slow emergence". The line "the zeros of the Riemann zeta function correspond to singularities in spacetime" is inspired!
It makes perfect sense in the story, as do most math details in this movie. (The governing dynamics scene, dialogue in the Pentagon
scene, and Nobel acceptance speech are exceptions.) To help folks who know the significance of 3.14 make
sense of the string of inequalities on John's forehead in the photo below, Dave Bayer explains that the young John Nash used Greek
letters playfully. (See, for example, page 18 of Nash's PhD thesis, reprinted in The Essential John Nash.) Bayer is also an
expert on a game Nash created, now known as Hex.
Hex is more interesting than Tic Tac Toe, but almost as easy to learn!
To play against a computer opponent, download Hex for the PC or
download Hex for the Mac; to play with your children or friends online,
alternately click on hexes in a Hex board online. |

Math consultant Dave Bayer was one of the professors in the second instance of the movie's pen ceremony. (Just a glimpse.)

Mr. Crowe's character John says "papers in hand, Mr. Bayer" to a student in a stream exiting his classroom. (Nod to Dave.)

The author of the advanced calculus text used in Alicia's first scene is Bayer. (Missed this. Dave had to tell me.)

Translation by one (1947 to 1948) and dilation by a factor of two doesn't quite correct the movie's early time line. (Why rush?)

John's office blackboard displays the same math when Parcher invades as when Sol and Bender loitered. (But not inbetween.)

John endures ten weeks of insulin coma therapy; Nash endured six. (Six is a perfect number. Why change it?)

The classroom scene shows what John and Alicia are about and why they connect. (Bravo. Perfect elaboration of the real story.)

Distracted by Charles, John doesn't notice that pigeons don't scatter when Marcee charges through. (Noticed on 6th viewing.)

An enlarged infinity symbol represents John's bicycle path. (Bravo. Sylvia Nasar's biography of Nash calls it a figure eight.)

John decodes 67 46 9 0 as 67 degrees and 46.9 minutes. (Bravo. David Sloan found Starkey Corners at longitude 67°47'20".)

The line "we've developed several ciphers" sticks out like a sore thumb in the Pentagon scene. (Why not "the data's clean"?)

John sounds like a math moron in his Nobel speech. (Movies should be unreal - Nash didn't give a speech - but not unrealistic.)

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This page was created by lbutler@haverford.edu. It was posted 2/26/02 and last updated 9/23/03.