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Math Goes to the Movies

, 304 pages

97 halftones, 58 line drawings

July 2012



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Math Goes to the Movies

Mel Gibson teaching Euclidean geometry, Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins acting out Zeno's paradox, Michael Jackson proving in three different ways that 7 x 13 = 28. These are just a few of the intriguing mathematical snippets that occur in hundreds of movies. Burkard Polster and Marty Ross pored through the cinematic calculus to create this thorough and entertaining survey of the quirky, fun, and beautiful mathematics to be found on the big screen.

Math Goes to the Movies is based on the authors’ own collection of more than 700 mathematical movies and their many years using movie clips to inject moments of fun into their courses. With more than 200 illustrations, many of them screenshots from the movies themselves, this book provides an inviting way to explore math, featuring such movies as:

Good Will HuntingA Beautiful MindStand and DeliverPiDie HardThe Mirror Has Two Faces

The authors use these iconic movies to introduce and explain important and famous mathematical ideas: higher dimensions, the golden ratio, infinity, and much more. Not all math in movies makes sense, however, and Polster and Ross talk about Hollywood’s most absurd blunders and outrageous mathematical scenes. Interviews with mathematical consultants to movies round out this engaging journey into the realm of cinematic mathematics.

This fascinating behind-the-scenes look at movie math shows how fun and illuminating equations can be.

Burkard Polster is an associate professor of mathematics at Monash University and author of A Geometrical Picture Book and The Mathematics of Juggling. Marty Ross, together with Polster, writes Maths Masters, a weekly column published in Australia's Age newspaper, featuring fascinating and playful discussions of a wide range of mathematical topics.

"Written in a breezy, humorous style. If you like math and movies and are looking for a fun read, check it out."

"[A] thorough and entertaining survey... This behind-the-scenes look at movie math shows how fun and illuminating equations can be."

" Math Goes to the Movies is a wonderful read."

"Movie and television aficionados who have a mathematics background will enjoy this book."

" Math Goes to the Movies comes packed with math and film insights alike, and is recommended for a wide audience."

"Not only is it very easy to read, it is also a pleasure, owing to the authors' warm humour. I heartily recommend this book to any mathematician who is interested in the way that their discipline and its practitioners are presented to the wider cinema-going public."

"This is an entertaining grab bag of mathematical and movie titbits that will delight mathematically minded movie buffs."

"Math Goes to the Movies abounds in mathematical tidbits that even the most observant filmgoer might have never noticed or at least might not have remembered."

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