James Moriarty - you heard this name, don't you? Most of us know him as a greatest adversary of Sherlock Holmes. But did you know that Moriarty was a mathematician of exceptional gifts?
In the latest Holmes flick, Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows, they don’t just need their trusty revolvers and Holmes’s trademark prescient fight scenes, they also need to grasp some mathematics. (So far I have seen only the trailer which looks like too much Holiwood thriller...)
More about the movie here. In Wikipedia you can find some things about Professor Moriarty -
there has been speculations " that Doyle based his fictional character Moriarty on the American astronomer Simon Newcomb. Newcomb was revered as a multitalented genius, with a special mastery of mathematics, and he had become internationally famous in the years before Doyle began writing his stories. More pointedly, Newcomb had earned a reputation for spite and malice, apparently seeking to destroy the careers and reputations of rival scientists."
Would popularity of Sherlock Holms stories contributed in part of general public the perception of mathematicians (and mathematics) as something evil?
There are dark biographies of mathematicians - for example, one of André Bloch,Ted Kaczynski. But now there is the most recent sad story about Oxford University math professor who was suspected in murder of his friend and fellow professor Rawling. Here is this story from The Guardian (Friday, January 13, 2012). Some British newspapers say that "the two had an altercation over an academic issue that got physical". In Telegraph this story is put in more reasonable perspective - math professor was treated wrongly by the police. Prof Rawlings wife issued a statement that "it has been a ragic accident", most likely Steve Rowlings (who was one of a handful of figures who helped bring the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – which will peer back 13 billion years in time – to the brink of construction) died of a sudden heart attack due to extreme stress he had lately.
I enjoyed watching Inspector Lewis series on PBS which takes place in Oxford. May be this latest event will make it into another Inspector Lewis episode....
Talking about mathematics and movies - here is a nice link to the list of movies with math in them:
Mathematics goes to movies
In the latest issue of Cabinet Magazine (issue 44 Winter 2011/2012) there is a history of one of the most popular "math movies" Powers of Ten.
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Some interesting applications of math:
The theorem that provides continuity for space, time, and airport maps
and The math behind screening tests.
But the exhibit I am putting on my calendar to see is in NYC - Chelsea -
Curved Crease Sculptures by Erik and Martin Demaine.