The Man Who Knew Infinity

I woke up and watched CBS This Morning.  The doctors on the show talked about doctors’ mistakes which led to death.  I saw the chef’s segment.  Some of Brandon Boudet’s signature recipes include Spaghetti and meatballs, rice balls, cauliflower “risotto,” fried potatoes, waffle brownie sundae, and The Bernard cocktail.  I looked up the American Top 40 playlist for the weekend.  The Top 10 songs on May 5, 1973 were “Frankenstein,” “Sing,” “The Twelfth of Never,” “Stuck in the Middle with You,” “Drift Away,” “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Little Willy,” “The Cisco Kid,” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”  I went out to work and had a normal shift.  I saw that it was Free Comic Book Day, and so I grabbed eight comic books, even though the limit was five.  I returned home and ate lunch and took a nap.  I took my umbrella and walked out to the theatre to see “The Man Who Knew Infinity.”  Mathematics has limitations as subject matter for a film, but this was a better movie than “A Beautiful Mind.”  It was about Srinivasa Ramanujan, the math genius who left his life in Madras, India for Cambridge University.  The star is Dev Patel, who was in “Slumdog Millionaire.”  I can’t say he convinced me that he had a brilliant mind, but he was able to write a theorem on a chalkboard.  The story is about sacrifice, moving to a faraway place, culture shock, racism, the academic environment, the nature of genius, and the fragility of life.  Somebody should have told him that one reason for having to do the proofs is that they explain why they are true.  You can’t simply spit out statements that you claim are true.  When Ramanujan talks about equations being statements from God, I thought of Bach and his compositions.  I think we didn’t need to see the scenes of Ramanujan getting beaten, and the zeppelin.  Jeremy Irons is G.H. Hardy, the professor who works with Ramanujan to whip him into shape, essentially.  We don’t get to know much about Hardy, other than he works hard at math, is an atheist, and has eccentricities.  He was locked into himself and his ideas, and he didn’t know that Ramanujan was a vegetarian and that he had a wife.  His relationship with Ramanujan made me think of “The Killing Fields.”  The film shows some unpleasant aspects of higher education, like envy and holding on to old ways.  There was a scene about partitions that was comical.  Somehow, though, a competition about numbers and calculations can’t be too compelling.  This does seem like a conventional biopic, but I did appreciate the attempt to add some substance to the script.  I found the movie inspiring, and it made me appreciate the fact that people like Euler, Jacobi, and Ramanujan lived and left behind meaningful work.  If you teach, you encounter a lot of mediocrity among the students, and it makes you appreciate clear thinking that much more.  Maybe it made too much about the fellowship.  I suppose the screenplay had to have elements like a villain, a conflict, and a triumph.  The day before Mather’s Day, it was somewhat painful to see the mother treating the wife so harshly.  Ramanujan was only 32 when he died in 1920.  The number 1729 is mentioned as the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.  It is the sum of the cubes of one and twelve, and also the sum of the cubes of nine and ten.  I was rather glad I went to see this movie on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  When was the last time I saw a movie about a mathematician?  I walked home and watched the second half of the Warriors game in Portland.  It seemed that the Warriors without Stephen Curry were never really in the game.  The Trail Blazers made a lot of three-point shots.  I saw from the crawling scores that the A’s split their doubleheader in Baltimore.  I watched episodes of All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and MASH before I went to sleep.  Some of the people who died on May 8 include Gustave Flaubert (1880), Paul Gauguin (1903), Robert A. Heinlein (1988), George Peppard (1994), Dirk Bogarde (1999), and Maurice Sendak (2012).  Today is a birthday for Ronnie Lott (57), Alex Van Halen (63), and Don Rickles (90).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 8, Herman’s Hermits reached Number One on the singles chart in 1965 with “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” a song they recorded in two takes.  In 1972, Billy Preston became the first rock performer to headline at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  In 1990, Tom Waits won a $2.5 million lawsuit when a judge in Los Angeles ruled that Frito-Lay unlawfully used a Waits impersonator in its Doritos commercial.  In 2010, Betty White hosted Saturday Night Live.

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