MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Jurassic Park (1990)
Michael Crichton
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Although there is really not much mathematics in this SF thriller at all, the mathematician (played in the film by Jeff Goldbloom) has an important role as the only person smart enough to recognize the danger of the situation. (Perhaps if he explained it in simple terms instead of vague references to chaos theory he'd find that more people could understand him!)

Contributed by Mike Hennebry

The mathematician in Jurassic Park was wrong. From what he was told, he should have concluded that the outside world was safe from the new dinosaurs. Having a monopoly on one of their necessary nutrients is a rather reliable confinement mechanism. Unfortunately, he was told wrong. The necessary nutrient was available elsewhere. My recollection is that it was in chickens. And, yeah, his communication skills were rather awful. His only intelligible explanation for his conclusion was something like "Life will find a way."

Contributed by Pierre Arnoux

I do not completely agree with your review. The allusion to Chaos theory and the fractal curves shown at the beginning of each chapter are just that: fashionable allusions.

But there is a very meaningful piece of math in the book, which is an important part of the plot (of course disappeared in the movie):

At some moment, we are shown the curve of the weights of some animals (around page 170-180) of the pocket edition); the man in charge of the park explains it is a normal curve, and the mathematician says that it is a problem; he elaborates 40 pages later, by explaining that it would be impossible to find such a normal curve for an artificial population as this one. This is the first moment where we begin to understand that things are going very wrong, and it is a turning point in the book.

Although the terminology is a bit fuzzy (Poisson normal distribution), I find that the reasoning is sound, and a good elementary application of mathematical modeling to discuss the properties of an ecological system; I often use it in a probability course as example.

(Webmaster's Apology: I'm afraid that I have to admit that I have never actually read the book. My description of the lack of mathematics in this work of fiction was based on a viewing of the movie. I know that this is unfair. Often the film version of a work of mathematical fiction has a lower mathematical content than the book. I am glad to learn from Professor Arnoux that there is more to this book than I had imagined.)

Contributed by Sonja Dezman

Hm. There is actually some math in this book? Are you kidding me? Vau. That is something new. OK. A new task for me: Read the Jurassic park again and look for mathematics. Thanks for putting that on the web!

Contributed by Tina Chang

I agree the Poisson Normal curve part was well done and integral part of the book. I also enjoyed the fractals at the beginning of the chapter. They were a gimic that had little to do with the plot. But it was a neat way of introducing a lot of people to the concept of a fractal. Fractals are related to chaos theory and the butterfly effect which was the theory studied by this mathematician. I think the only chaos in the story was the idea of the mounting issue of glitches in the entirely computerized gamepark rather than in the behavior of the dinosaurs. I do not remember "life will find a way" being in the book, just the movie. The movie is best for its genetics, forget the math, but it has awe inspiring CGI.

Contributed by HavNFun

I just thought I would say that his book is NOTHING like the movie, so do not base your judgment of the book on the mathematics in the movie. Michael Crichton is an excellent author and I would greatly recommend his works.

Contributed by Phil Wicker

While the author doesn't add much practical math to the novel, theoretical math is definitely a contributing theme. Concepts of chaos theory and complex systems are present in the autonomous design of the parks systems (and subsequent failure of those systems) and the nature of the DNA used and the dinosaurs themselves (supplemental DNA from other species adds in variables with unintentional effects, and the dinosaurs adapt to find other sources of lysine than was originally intended by the park managers). Theoretical math is also present as a motif through the use of fractal images and graphs as mentioned in the other user comments. Unfortunately, most of the mathematical references were not included in the movies.

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Works Similar to Jurassic Park
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons
  2. Pi by Darren Aronofsky (director)
  3. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
  4. Schwarzschild Radius by Connie Willis
  5. Solid Geometry by Ian McEwan
  6. Cube by Vincenzo Natali (Director)
  7. Strange Attractors by William Sleator
  8. To Walk the Night by William Sloane
  9. Sphere by Michael Crichton
  10. The Dreams in the Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft
Ratings for Jurassic Park:
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:
2.38/5 (13 votes)
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Literary Quality:
4.07/5 (15 votes)
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Categories:
GenreScience Fiction, Horror,
MotifCool/Heroic Mathematicians,
TopicChaos/Fractals, Probability/Statistics,
MediumNovels, Films,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)