a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Torn Curtain (1966)
Alfred Hitchcock (Director)
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Professor Armstrong (Paul Newman) pretends to defect to the other side of the iron curtain to learn of the secret "star wars"-like defense plan discovered by the brilliant (by his own account) Dr. Lindt. Fiancee (Julie Andrews) follows him against his wishes. In the only mathematical scene in the movie, Armstrong tricks Lindt into revealing his results by writing irritatingly incorrect formulas on the blackboard (supposedly to show Lindt what the American's have discovered). Lindt cannot stop himself from correcting Armstrong's errors, thereby revealing the secret portions of his research. Though the math is bogus (looks like classical mechanics of oscillators from the little bit I saw) the film does convey the idea that the formulas are important, are the subject of research, and that the research (at least the non-secret part) is published in journals.

Contributed by John C. Konrath

While only a few scenes including mathematics take place on screen, this story could not be told without the underlying mathematical and physics concepts. Alfred Hitchcock always tells an interesting tale, but I could have done without the romance sceens. Moreover, I tend to enjoy more realistic fiction and on a number of counts this movie fails on that level. Finally, my heart goes out to Dr. Linz...

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Works Similar to Torn Curtain
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Sabre Squadron by Simon Raven
  2. The Mathematician by Will Manson
  3. The Day the Earth Stood Still by Robert Wise (director) / Harry Bates (story) / Edmund H. North
  4. Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah (Director)
  5. Nachman by Leonard Michaels
  6. The Year of the Tiger by Jack Higgins
  7. The 39 Steps by Alfred Hitchcock (director)
  8. 7 Steps to Midnight by Richard Matheson
  9. White Rabbit, Red Wolf [This Story is a Lie] by Tom Pollock
  10. The Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
Ratings for Torn Curtain:
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.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.33/5 (3 votes)

MotifCool/Heroic Mathematicians, Math as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful,

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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)