a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Maths professor Jonah Block finds himself in possession of a 50 year old postcard from Alan Turing over which people have been killed. He quickly realizes it is the (literal) key to decoding a series of postcards Turing sent to friends just before his suicide. Mixed in with the modern adventure story are scenes featuring Alan Turing arguing with a government official.
Of course, the Turing story is interesting and moving. The fact that almost nobody knew about his achievements or awards due to the Official Secrets Act, the way he was persecuted for his homosexuality, his role in the foundations of computer science and mathematical biology...these are all addressed and remain emotionally potent. But, they are also things that have already appeared in many other works, both fictional and non-fictional. So, unless this is the first time you are seeing it, this aspect will have lost its edge.
This is not the worst low-budget film I've ever seen, but it has some major flaws. There are odd artistic choices (such as the decision to show the modern scenes in black and white but the historical ones with Turing in color), and the sort of problems that are hard to avoid in a low budget film (inconsistent acting and sound quality). But mostly, it was a decision about the mathematics which I think limits the audience that will appreciate this movie. There is quite a bit of math that is mentioned, often just a matter of "name dropping": Georg Cantor, Andre Bloch, Fermat, P. vs NP, Gödel, etc.. The real MacGuffin of the story is the Riemann Hypothesis and its (supposed) ability to break the cryptographic methods utilized for internet security. The thing is, this turns out to be too much math too quickly for people who aren't already familiar with it. (In many reviews I've seen, people complain that they had no idea what was going on because there was too much math.) On the other hand, nothing particularly interesting or novel is done with these ideas from the point of view of someone who already knows them.
For me, although it was nice to see all of these ideas grouped together in a movie, it honestly was not worth an hour and a quarter of my life to watch it. Its use of "I Am Nern" as an anagram for "Riemann" for me is representative of the quality of this work as mathematical fiction. Okay, it is mathematical...but not particularly clever, entertaining, or enlightening.
Here's a taste of the mathematical dialogue:
FYI According to IMDB, Peter Wild also has a short film about Evariste Galois.
I'll say just a bit more about the mathematics in The Turing Enigma in a spoiler which appears below. But first, if it is still working, you can watch the entire film on YouTube here:
Spoiler Alert Stop reading now if you don't want to know the "surprise ending" of the movie
So, it turns out that Riemann himself discovered an algorithm that accurately predicted the locations of prime numbers. He only knew it empirically, but had no proof that the algorithm worked nor of the hypothesis itself. This information was lost because his papers were burned after his death, but rediscovered during World War II and presented to Turing for verification. Turing was forbidden from discussing Riemann's algorithm under the Official Secrets Act. (Why?!? That seems anachronistic. Even the character Block seems to know that this doesn't make sense.) And so he sends off the postcards describing the algorithm before eating the poison apple.
|More information about this work can be found at www.youtube.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.)|
Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)