Mega-late to the party, I’ve now arrived back from a week lecturing in Indonesia and have found time to go and see the incredibly well-received and widely talked-about NASA women maths film, Hidden Figures. I’ve heard an incredible number of wildly positive responses to the film, from as long ago as January, and have been looking forward to it greatly.
The film is a painstaking and at times brutally realistic depiction of the struggles faced by African-Americans, and by women, during the era of the early space missions.
Here are a few of the stories that we didn’t get round to covering in depth this month.
Turing’s Sunflowers Project – results
Manchester Science Festival’s mass-participation maths/gardening project, Turing’s Sunflowers, ran in 2012 and invited members of the public to grow their own sunflowers, and then photograph or bring in the seed heads so a group of mathematicians could study them. The aim was to determine whether Fibonacci numbers occur in the seed spirals – this has previously been observed, but no large-scale study like this has ever been undertaken. This carries on the work Alan Turing did before he died.
Bread & Kisses is a short film by Katherine Fitzgerald about a mathematician who discovers love – I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before – but it also contains a mathematician who moves to the Alps to get more skiing in, so it’s the most realistic film about mathematicians ever. It also features the emotion of love in a star turn as an epsilon term.
Although it contains the line, “you forgot the most important ingredient: love”, so don’t get your hopes too high.
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.
A few days ago, friend of The Aperiodical James Grime contacted me asking if I would be able to review The Theory of Everything. Obviously I was flattered. In a past life I did some mathematics/physics in the same ballpark as Hawking’s celebrated black-hole work so guessed James was asking because he knew I used to know something about this. Or perhaps it was because he knew that Hawking ran over my foot in a bar at the 17th International General Relativity and Gravitation conference in Dublin back in 2004? Either way, James had given me a pass to go and watch the beautiful Eddie Redmayne for the evening!