MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Calculus of Love (2011)
Dan Clifton (Writer and Director)
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A professor who is obsessed with proving Goldbach's Conjecture challenges a class of graduate students to make any progress on it. But, is he truly motivated by a love of pure mathematics and its search for truth, or will baser human emotions get in the way when one of the students seems to succeed?

In an interview, the writer/director says "I’ve made a lot of films about science and with scientists. I’ve always been interested in the idea that science is a noble pursuit for the truth, but that the pursuers – scientists themselves – suffer from all the usual human flaws. A character’s obsession with proving an unsolved mathematical conjecture felt like a good way to dramatise this conflict."

There are lots of things I like about this movie, and only a few things I don't like. As it is only 15 minutes long and free, I suggest you watch it before reading on because my discussion will include a few spoilers.

The film is well acted and directed; I can see why it won some awards at short film festivals. The film touches on (but does not say much about) the important topic of sexism in mathematics. And, although I hope nobody thinks this is a common or even realistic situation, the idea of a math graduate course that is so challenging that 70% of the students will fail is intriguing. Finally, of course, I vicariously enjoyed the sweet revenge as the heroine of the film gets even with this jerk of a professor.

On the other hand, there is a noticeable shortage of both calculus and love in this film, and so I'm not sure I like the title. More significantly, I have two big problems with the idea that a young woman with a proof of Goldbach's Conjecture would need help from a professor in order to get recognition. One problem is that I don't believe it is true and so it spoils the story for me. After all, she could just go get it published without involving the professor. Couldn't she get better revenge by actually getting the fame and recognition he so desires? And, my other problem with this is that I'm afraid it will give viewers a misconception of the field of mathematics. One of the wonderful things about math is that you don't have to be part of some club to get recognized for making an important discovery. If anyone had a proof (or disproof) of Goldbach's Conjecture it would not matter who they were. (Consider, for example, the case of Yitang Zhang.)

Lots of copies of this movie are available for free on the Internet, for example at vimeo.com. So, you should definitely watch it. Once you do, come back here to rate it and comment on it.

More information about this work can be found at vimeo.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 The Calculus of Love
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Bread & Kisses by Katherine Fitzgerald (writer and director)
  2. Until Tomorrow, Then by Shaun Hamill (writer and director)
  3. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
  4. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  5. The Exception by Alex Kasman
  6. Fermat's Room (La Habitacion de Fermat) by Luis Piedrahita / Rodrigo Sopeña
  7. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis
  8. Lewis (Episode: Reputation) by Russell Lewis (Story) / Stephen Churchett (Screenplay)
  9. Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki
  10. Final Exam by Robert Dawson
Ratings for The Calculus of Love:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
4/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
Genre
MotifAcademia, Proving Theorems, Female Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumFilms, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)