firstname.lastname@example.org (Dr. Jai Maharaj): Apr 30 06:14PM
Mathematicians And 'The Man Who Knew Infinity'
By Ramin Skibba, Contributor Inside Science insidescience.org Friday, April 29, 2016
[Caption] Real portraits of the main characters from the new film "The Man Who Knew Infinity," Srinivasa Ramanujan (left) and G.H. Hardy (right).
A new movie tells the story of an underdog Indian mathematician.
(Inside Science) - In 1914, an unknown Indian man boarded a ship and traveled across the world to Cambridge University in England, where he could finally follow his passion for mathematics. In the few short years between his arrival and untimely death, he filled notebooks with formulas and discovered theorems, some of which still influence the work of mathematicians and scientists today.
The new biopic, "The Man Who Knew Infinity," which opens in U.S. theaters beginning Friday, April 29, chronicles the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan. A self-taught Indian mathematician from the city then called Madras (now Chennai), Ramanujan struggled to overcome racism, poverty, and outsider status in imperial Britain during the tumultuous time of World War I. But he eventually won over the mathematical community and was the second Indian to become a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Written and directed by Matthew Brown, the film gives an authentic portrayal of how mathematicians actually work. At Cambridge, Ramanujan, began an unlikely partnership with G. H. Hardy, who quickly recognized his impressive, if untrained, mathematical abilities. Hardy later described their collaboration as "the one romantic incident in my life."
Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons play Ramanujan and Hardy, respectively. The mathematicians had to bridge many cultural divides. A steadfast atheist, Hardy persistently placed an emphasis on reason, logic, and the "pristine proofs of the Western mathematical tradition," as Robert Kanigel's 1991 biography puts it. Ramanujan, in contrast, relied on intuition and imagination, turning math into an art with his love of form and elegance. In the movie, he tells Hardy that the Hindu goddess Namagiri writes the formulas on his tongue each night.
"Mathematics used to be an individual sport, but Hardy and Ramanujan taught us how much you can accomplish with collaboration," said Princeton mathematician Manjul Bhargava. He and other mathematicians, actors, and the director spoke at a post-screening event at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Their rare and at times fraught collaboration makes for an entertaining film. This is in spite its sprinkling in bits of math throughout, which some viewers might find daunting. For example, upon hearing about a taxi's number 1729, Ramanujan pointed out that that it's the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways (1 cubed plus 12 cubed and 6 cubed plus 10 cubed).