Thursday, July 15, 2010

A disappearing number?

A new math-centric play opens tonight at the Lincoln center in New York for a brief run: A Disappearing Number, by Simon McBurney. Said of the performance:
This groundbreaking work embraces the universal relevance of math..., [and] revolves around the mathematical and spiritual nature of infinity, which becomes the link between two mathematicians: one an established Cambridge professor, G. H. Hardy, the other a young, autodidactic genius from India, Srinivasa Ramanujan.
Folks on the inside (of the research mathematics profession, that is) will instantly recognize Ramanujan, one of the more fascinating geniuses we have in math, both in his ability as well as his story. You should google each of these two mathematicians, though.

But really, back on task, making the beauty and mystery of real mathematics appealing by interweaving it into a drama is still rare these days, and very welcome.

The story at one point links itself to A Mathematicians Apology, a 1940 essay by Hardy on the aesthetics of mathematics. He compares mathematics to art and poetry, much like A Mathematician's Lament, which I highlighted recently. A great quote from the new play (which I can only paraphrase at this point):
"Like poetry and art, mathematics is the discovery and design of patterns. Beauty is the prime feature of good mathematics.... There is no place in this world for ugly mathematics."
You gotta admire statements like that.

It is said that one of these performances (there are only 5 of them) will be taped and released in theaters as a HD film in October.

I'll be looking for it.

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