Fall 2012 MATH 24 005 SEM

Freshman Seminars
005 SEMTh 6-7P 939 EVANSHOLTZ, O V55207
Units/CreditFinal Exam GroupEnrollment
1: PFNONELimit:16 Enrolled:16 Waitlist:0 Avail Seats:0 [on 11/02/12]

Restrictions: FR ; CURRENTLY FULL

Note: "Mathematics in Film and Fiction"

Additional Information: 

Prerequisites: The Berkeley Seminar Program has been designed to provide new students with the opportunity to explore an intellectual topic with a faculty member in a small-seminar setting. Berkeley Seminars are offered in all campus departments, and topics vary from department to department and semester to semester.


"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. 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.

Office: 821 Evans Hall

Office Hours: TBD

Required Text: 

Recommended Reading:

  • Burkard Polster and Marty Ross.  Math Goes to the Movies. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN-10: 1421404842
  • James Monaco.  How to Read a Film: Movies, Media and Beyond.  Oxford University Press, USA; 4th edition. 0195321057

Grading: P/NP based on class participation


Course Webpage: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~oholtz/24/