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Legit maths in movies?

  1. Jun 2, 2004 #1


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    Hey, I was watching Good Will Hunting today to motivate me for my oncoming exams. In movies like these there are usually some scenes of chalkboards filled with math or what have you and I've always wandered if they made sence or if the maths was legit.

    Check out this screep cap:
    Is this question(s) legit, does it make sense?

    Also, anyone know of any other movies in similar vein to Good Will Hunting? I absolutely love it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2004 #2

    matt grime

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    The mathematics in Good Will is reasonable, that is it looks proper. I can't say I read it too closely. However its portrayal of mathematics is terrible, in particular the conceit that an alleged Field's Medallist is unable to recall a 1 page proof of a problem he is very familiar with cannot be allowed to stand.
    In A Beautiful Mind they employed some mathematicians to make sure what appears on screen looks correct. That didn't stop them misspelling Nobel as Noble at one point though.
  4. Jun 2, 2004 #3


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    I've noticed "The Far Side" usually has mathmatical gobbledigook, but once in a while, he slips in a real equation.

  5. Jun 2, 2004 #4
    There are many movies where legit math is associated:
    Appollo 13, IQ, Its my turn, Lambada, Rain Man, Moebius, etc.
    Check these out
  6. Jun 2, 2004 #5


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    Sometimes, they go too far, trying to make the math be "correct".

    For instance, in The Beautiful Mind, Nash is doodling a derivation of something on his window pane. In each step (on 3 or 4 consecutive lines) there appears an infinite sum with "n=0 to infinity" appearing below and above the summation symbol, sigma. I can't imagine anyone being so conscientious about filling in the extents of summation, line after line after line, for the same sum, expecially when he is on the verge of a major breakthrough.

    I think they got the math, but not the mathematician.
  7. Jun 2, 2004 #6
    I don't know a lot of combinatorics, but an undergrad could probably solve that problem easily. It may make sense & be real math, but it's not cutting-edge, research-level math like they make it out to be in the film.

    I've also noticed math in the Simpsons that makes sense.
  8. Jun 2, 2004 #7
    Yeah, "e^(i pi) + 1 = 0" in the episode where Homer gets sucked in to the real world. There's also that episode where Homer finds a pair of glasses in the toilet, puts them on, and makes some Pythagroean theorem-esque statement (it wasn't correct though).

    (You think I've watched too many Simpsons episodes?)
  9. Jun 2, 2004 #8
    Someone once told me about a cheapo scifi movie from the 1960s. A horrible mad scientist was causing all kinds of destruction until near the end, when he got himself caught by his own evildoing. It was then revealed that he had gained his irresistible destructive power by figuring out how to integrate all the way from minus infinity up to plus infinity.
  10. Jun 2, 2004 #9


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    I believe Homer says something a long the lines of:

    "The sum of the square of two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square of the other side"

    And then someone shouts out correcting him. Oh also the equation given in the 3D universe is [itex]e^{i\pi}=-1[/itex]

    "The Saint" was on in the background the other day and it was this scientist explaining their method of how to make cold fusion work, I'm no physicist but I am fairly sure they had got it all wrong as the scientist started off by talking about "positively charged neutrons"
  11. Jun 2, 2004 #10


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    Now that is a mathmatical impossibility!

  12. Jun 3, 2004 #11
    If I only had a brain

    To go way back, there is always the scene from The Wizard of Oz wherein the Scarecrow gets his Diploma and demonstrates his newfound intelligence by quoting "the square root of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square roots of the other two sides". I've always wondered if that was intentional or the result of Hollywood mathematics.
  13. Jun 4, 2004 #12
    i use a A Beautiful Mind while prepping for exams, works like a charm. The Core has some interesting physics and mathematical theories in the film. but they seem kinda out there, and only take up 10 minutes of the movie.
  14. Jun 5, 2004 #13


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    Yeh, I've seen the core.. Wasn't bad.. Just way too far 'out there'
  15. Jun 5, 2004 #14


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    That reminds me...

    I know someone who insists that the momentum transferred to the shooter of the gun is way less than the momentum transferred to the person struck by the bullet. I try to tell him that he has seen too many Hollywood movies, where the shooter casually hoses 50-caliber machine gun ammo at the bad guys without bracing himself and without breaking a sweat. Those hit by the ammo, of course, are knocked on their keesters in a spray of blood, to good dramatic effect.
  16. Jun 5, 2004 #15
    no you do too much math. normal people wouldn't care what's on the board. :rofl:
  17. Jun 5, 2004 #16


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