MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Guy Ritchie (director)
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There is not much actual mathematics in this sequel which, like its predecessor, features a version of Sherlock Holmes portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. as more of an action hero than the one in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. However, as in the original books, Holmes' arch enemy, Professor Moriarty, is decisively portrayed as being a professional (and evil) mathematician.

The film features a shot of Moriarty's blackboard and a code based on Pascal's Triangle. Both of these mathematical details were devised by Alain Goriely and Derek Moulton of Oxford University’s Mathematical Institute, with the intention of making them not only mathematically but also historically accurate. Unfortunately, both fly by so quickly that it is not possible to see anything but the quickest glimpse of either of them. (At least, I was not able to, while viewing it as an in-flight movie. Perhaps by pausing an HD version, one could do better.)

Aside from that, the only interest this Website has in this film is in its portrayal of a mathematician. He is certainly shown as being highly intelligent, as well as influential and famous. (People are always asking him to sign copies of his manuscript on asteroid dynamics and he was selected to help coordinate the international political dialogue which is at the center of the plot.) Of course, he is also portrayed as being utterly heartless and devious.

Finally, I would like to remark on the most mathematical comment made in the film. At one point, Holmes tries to negotiate with Moriarty, asking him not to harm the newly married Doctor Watson. Moriarty's reply is that "in celestial mechanics, whenever two bodies collide, there is always damage of a collateral nature". (Well, perhaps I'm paraphrasing. As I said, I saw the film on an airplane and was not able to copy down the exact wording. Please correct me if you know exactly what he said.) In any case, this is a silly remark since there certainly is no such rule in celestial mechanics!

For more mathematical fiction featuring Holmes and Moriarty, click here!

More information about this work can be found at www.imdb.com.
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Adventure of the Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. The Ultimate Crime by Isaac Asimov
  3. Professor and Colonel by Ruth Berman
  4. The Return of Moriarty by John Gardner
  5. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer
  6. Hickory Dickory Shock! The Tale of Techies by Sundip Gorai
  7. All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen
  8. Fermat's Room (La Habitacion de Fermat) by Luis Piedrahita / Rodrigo Sopeña
  9. The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis
  10. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Ratings for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows:
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(unrated)

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Categories:
GenreMystery, Adventure/Espionage,
MotifEvil mathematicians, War, Sherlock Holmes,
Topic
MediumFilms,

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)