Mathematics in Film and Fiction
General Catalog Course Title:
Mathematics 24, Section 3
Terms Offered:
Fall 2014
Fall 2013

"Something's going on. It has to do with that number. There's an answer in that number."– Maximilian Cohen, in π (1998).

This course will offer an exploration of mathematics through the lens of a camera, the stage of a theater, and the language of a book. This year we will focus on the interplay between mathematics and computer science, and their representation in media. Can mathematics as a science, the thrill of its pursuit, or the idiosyncrasies of its practitioners be accurately portrayed in these media? Is such an accurate portrayal at all necessary or important? What societal beliefs and misconceptions are reflected in the works of literature and film dealing with mathematics? What is behind the stereotype of a crazy mathematician? How can one tell a compelling story about math to a non-mathematical audience? We will meet once a week to watch, read, argue about, and (try to) understand the mathematics within the world of literature and film. Besides reading and viewing, the students will be expected to take a very active part in class discussion and to make short presentations, which could include critique of a movie fragment, analysis of a literary text, or even a short mathematical proof. This class is intended for students with substantial interest in mathematics, film and literature. This seminar is part of the On the Same Page initiative.

Olga Holtz is a Professor of Mathematics at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD [2000] in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Since then, she has done research and taught Mathematics and Computer Science in the U.S. and Germany. She is also an independent filmmaker and screenwriter trained at the Berkeley Digital Film Institute [2012-13]. She recently directed her first film.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.