a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|This TV show combines disparate familiar elements. Like "24", it has Kiefer Sutherland running around trying to save people. Like "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" it has the autistic child of a single parent whose spouse died in the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. Like "Babel" it intertwines people in far-off locations in contrived plotlines. And, like "Pi", it uses vague mathematical references combined with gematria to suggest that there is a deeper order to reality that only a few can see.
In that first episode, the father of a (seemingly) autistic boy who likes to play with numbers learns that he is actually trying to communicate important information. If the father can just act on the messages appropriately, it can achieve great results like getting him in touch with the fireman who attempted to save his wife on 9/11 and through a strange sequence of events then save the lives of some children trapped in a burning school bus. By searching the Internet for relevant information, the father finds a man named Teller who runs an "institute" out of his home who explains that the boy can see the mathematics underlying reality in a way the rest of us can't. He points out that the boy discovered the Fibonacci sequence on his own, and comments on the occurrence of this sequence and the Golden Ratio in natural phenomena.
This sets the pattern for the rest of the episodes: an exciting sequence of what would seem to be bizarre coincidences occur when the father follows the numerical clues passed to him by his son. References to mathematics (the five Platonic solids, tessellations, numerical sequences) and Jewish mysticism never quite explain it, but instead give a nuministic sense that something deep is going on without giving any actual understanding.
For example, the father puts a quarter into a tourists pay telescope to show his son the Brooklyn Bridge, but instead the boy keeps looking at a cargo ship with containers labeled Möbius. The father notes that combining the numbers from the sign on the telescope (25 cents) and the angle of the scope (45 degrees) gives the number 2545. Following this clue, he finds a group of longshoremen planning to rob a ship with the number 2545. However, the container they were looking for contains only fruit. In a separate story line, a Jewish Israeli boy in love with a Palestinian girl worries about passing her a numerical message from her brother, thinking it might be used for terrorist purposes. But, his cousin (who happens to work at Teller's institute) advises him based on the mystical meanings of the numbers that the message is good not evil. The message ends up redirecting the longshoremen to container number 2545 (the same number again), which turns out to hold illegal immigrants in need of rescue and everything is okay.
Now, it is not that I don't think that math can be amazing or that it can find patterns or predict the future; it can do all of those things. However, it is much more sensible and understandable than this show would suggest. I can see that people might gain some appreciation for math from this show (even though it provides much less real information than does a show like NUMB3RS), but I would hate for people to be left with the feeling that mathematics is something only a few magical people can really understand.
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)