Fusun Akman (Coastal Carolina University)
About a mathematician who writes a proof of the Snake Lemma at the
light. Her love interest was Michael Douglas, some sort of athlete.
One mathematician I know claims he wrote a paper just so that he
could cite this movie for the proof of the Snake Lemma."
Stephen Gagola (Kent State)
"Jill has an exchange with a precocious boy, probably junior high school age, about prime numbers. This was a big disappointment
for me: mathematically precocious kids this age are a lot smarter than was represented in the exchange.
- At one point, some University administrator, probably a Dean, mentions to Jill Clayburgh that 'Group theory is a really hard area to
work in'. I wish our own administrators would believe that.
Jill's father, at one point, introduces his daughter as a mathematician who is working in finite simple groups. How many group
theorists have parents who know what they do? Also, I heard as an anecdote, that this scene had to be edited. The father had first
introduced his daughter as someone working in the area of finite, simple, ABELIAN groups. A mathematician (or someone
knowledgeable about the subject) present during the screening broke out in laughter on hearing this.
- Jill, at one point working on the back of an envelope, is frustrated that she `can't quite get this 2-fusion problem to work out'.
- The movie ends on an up-beat note, mathematically, when the obnoxious grad student and Jill share (in a rather cryptic exchange)
some clever insight that would lead to the solution of the classification problem. Interestingly enough, 1980 (the year of the movie) is
the more-or-less agreed date that the finite simple groups were classified."
"Given that Clayburgh was going to prove
the "snake lemma", why the hell didn't
she generalize slightly and derive the
long homology exact sequence associated
to a short exact sequence of chain
complexes? Only in Hollywood ....
By the way, as it happens, when I saw
this film some 21 years ago, I had,
just the day before, lectured on the
homology exact sequence in an intro
algebraic topology course. Thus, I
couldn't resist blurting out
Clayburgh's lines (and those of the
grad students) before they were
delivered. I got some odd looks from
the audience, believe you me."