a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Lewis (Episode: Reputation) (2006)
Russell Lewis (Story) / Stephen Churchett (Screenplay)

In this pilot episode of the spin-off from the popular Inspector Lewis television series, a female math student is murdered while she participates in a sleep study. Perfect numbers show up in the form of passwords and a math professor provides the alibi for the prime suspect. As it turns out, math is also essential to the motive, but I'll mention that at the bottom to avoid spoiling the mystery for those who may want to watch the show themselves.

Thanks to Charles Freudenthal and Roberta Beary for bringing this episode to my attention.

For those who may not know, let me briefly mention that Goldbach's Conjecture is a very old empirical observation regarding prime and even numbers, namely that every even number greater than two appears to be a sum of two prime numbers. That is, any time this has been checked for a given number it has been found to be true. However, as of my writing this in 2009 nobody has figured out either how to prove that it is always the case or found a counter-example. This is of mathematical interest largely because it sounds as if it should be easy to prove or disprove, but clearly it is quite difficult!

Spoiler Alert: I have not yet been able to see this episode, but following is what I've been able to piece together from what I've heard and read.

Apparently, the murderer was the math professor who was the winner of a Fields Medal for his work on Golbach's Conjecture. He killed the student because she had found a flaw in his work. (This wiki says "The math tutor [i.e. professor -ak] murdered Regan because she found a solution that would prove his mathematical theory wrong.")

That motive seems unlikely to me. If there really is a counter-example to the professor's "theory" then it is wrong and killing the discoverer would achieve little. In fact, if one person found it would it not be likely that another person would soon also? I appreciate that, as the title implies, the murderer was motivated by fear that his reputation would be damaged, but I have trouble believing that an actual mathematician would react so violently and personally when the real issue would not be this one person and her counter-example so much as the undeniable fact that he was wrong.

Anyway, I should reserve judgement until I see the episode for myself. However, if you have seen the episode (or would just like to voice your prejudices as I have), please write to share your thoughts.

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Works Similar to Lewis (Episode: Reputation)
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
  2. Law and Order: Criminal Intent (Episode: Inert Dwarf) by Renee Balcer (story) / Warren Leight (script) / Alex Chapple (director)
  3. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis
  4. In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff
  5. Fermat's Room (La Habitacion de Fermat) by Luis Piedrahita / Rodrigo SopeƱa
  6. Pythagorean Crimes by Tefcros Michaelides
  7. Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins
  8. Murder by Mathematics by Hector Hawton
  9. The Mentalist (Episode: 18-5-4) by Bruno Heller (writer) / Leonard Dick (writer) / Charles Beeson (director)
  10. The Distant Dead by Heather Young
Ratings for Lewis (Episode: Reputation):
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.


MotifAcademia, Proving Theorems, Female Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumTelevision Series or Episode,

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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)