MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The 39 Steps (1935)
Alfred Hitchcock (director)
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Contributed by Christopher Wolfe

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller follows the getaway of Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a man accused of murder. While Hannay must outsmart the police in his escape, he also finds himself sought by the actual assassins, who believe he is witness to a secret mathematical expression. The formula that everyone must know is a means of rendering an engine silent, finally divulged as “1 – (1/R)γ, where R represents the ratio of compression and gamma…” along with some fragments of the remainder of the formula. As is usual for a Hitchcock film, the driving force of the plot is trivial to the viewer. The classified expression, which every character cares about, is Hitchcock’s trademark MacGuffin, a means to an end.

Apparently, math has its sinister side, for its secrets are guarded not only by professors and researchers, but political assassins. Hitchcock would continue this idea of top-secret math in his 1966 film Torn Curtain.

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 The 39 Steps
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Day the Earth Stood Still by Robert Wise (director) / Harry Bates (story) / Edmund H. North
  2. Torn Curtain by Alfred Hitchcock (Director)
  3. 7 Steps to Midnight by Richard Matheson
  4. The Brink of Infinity by Stanley G. Weinbaum
  5. Mercury Rising by Harold Becker (director)
  6. Ghost Dancer by John Case
  7. The Last Enemy by Peter Berry (Screenplay) / Iain B. MacDonald (Director)
  8. The Siege Of The "Lancashire Queen" by Jack London
  9. Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis
  10. Sneakers by Phil Alden Robinson (director)
Ratings for The 39 Steps:
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(unrated)

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Categories:
GenreAdventure/Espionage,
MotifMath as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful,
TopicMathematical Physics,
MediumFilms,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)