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Ramanujan's Miracles: A Drama To Demystify Mathematics (1997)
R.N. Kapur

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A dramatization involving a particular problem which Ramanujan had solved and how two teenagers reason out why the solution works.

Scene 1 of the drama has Mahalanobis and Ramanujan in conversation at Ramaujan's house (while Ramanujan is cooking. As Ramanujan says, he learnt cooking out of necessity but learnt mathematics out of the joy it gives). Mahalanobis mentions a problem in the “Strand” magazine and tells Ramanujan how he managed to get a solution by trial and error. Ramanujan immediately gives a complete solution in the form of a continued fraction [the particular problem involves summing up consecutive integers from 1 to N and then from N+2 to M, with N and M such that the sums are equal. Ramanujan's solution shows that there are infinitely many such pairs]. Scene 2 is the famous episode involving Hardy and Ramanujan in the hospital, with Ramanujan's “Taxi Number”, 1729.

The rest of the drama has two students, Uma and Sanjay, trying to figure out how Ramanujan may have worked out his “miracle solution” of continued fraction. In the process, the dramatist takes a number of detours into Diophantine equations, polygonal numbers, Vedic mathematics, etc.

This drama would be a bit difficult to perform on stage because of the extensive mathematical formulae and discussions, though a simplified adaptation for a math class may not be out of place.

The author has also written at least 2 other short mathematical plays, “Tower of Brahma” and “Hilbert's Hotel”, though neither is available in libraries in the US.

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GenreHistorical Fiction, Didactic,
MotifReal Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Real Mathematics,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)