Following 2013’s amazing bounded gaps between primes result, mathematician Yitang Zhang has gone from an unknown maths lecturer to a mathematical celebrity. The Mathematical Research Sciences Institute at Berkeley has put together a film telling the story of Zhang’s proof, and his life before and after the announcement.
The film, which was funded by the Simons Foundation, has contributions from a large number of mathematicians, including Daniel Goldston, Kannan Soundararajan, Andrew Granville, Peter Sarnak, Enrico Bombieri, James Maynard (based at Oxford, who did further work to reduce the prime gap following on from Zhang’s), Nicholas Katz, David Eisenbud, Ken Ribet, and Aperiodihero Terry Tao, as well as Zhang himself.
Counting From Infinity features interviews, conversations between groups of mathematicians, and footage of Zhang’s life and workplace. It also includes interviews with his wife, who was as surprised as anyone by her husband’s sudden rise to fame, and his friends and family. Erica Klarreich, mathematician and science writer, narrates the story, and animator Andrea Hale produced 28 animated sequences which are used to support mathematical explanations in the interviews.
George Csicsery, the film’s producer/director, came up with the idea after talking to the director of the MRSI, David Eisenbud. They felt that much of the coverage of the story had focused on the mathematical result, while nobody really knew much about the mysterious character of Zhang himself. The story of his mathematical achievement, along with a flavour of his character and personality, make up the film.
The film’s world premiere took place at the Joint Mathematics Meeting, in San Antonio, Texas on 10th January, and it is hoped that it will be broadcast in the US on PBS. An order form is available on the film’s website to purchase individual copies of the DVD, and licenses for public performance rights. A review of the film has been posted on the Joint Mathematics Meetings blog.
You can watch the trailer here: