I was trained as a theoretical physicist, which is something that my current job in the aerospace industry somewhat belies. Last night, Netflix suggested that I start watching this show called Numb3rs. I think that I’d heard about it once before but I’d never really given it any attention. So far, I have to say that it’s somewhat entertaining, but as one might expect, I have some problems:
- The producers hired a bunch of mathematicians to insert some legitimate mathematics into the script to jazz up the show and make it sound more accurate. It’s all out of context and tends to grate on me a bit.
- Contrary to the way that Charles Eppes is portrayed, a mathematical genius isn’t a savant or an expert in every branch of the field. This is really similar to the way TV portrays other fictional geniuses. It’s highly inaccurate and it really bothers me. The lead character is an expert in applied mathematics. But, half the topics discussed are from things like number theory, which is probably the furthest thing from applied math that there is.
- The show really compresses the amount of time required to do most of the things which the math wiz does. As an example, during one of the episodes, the main character spends a few seconds looking over a few sheets of paper and is able to understand a partial proof of the Riemann Hypothesis with little effort. To say that this is unrealistic does a disservice to Jerry Bruckheimer films. It took the mathematical community over two years to understand the proof of a similarly impossible problem known as Fermat’s Last Theorem, so the idea of anyone, regardless of their abilities, being able to understand a partial proof of the Riemann Hypothesis at the drop of a hat is simply preposterous.
- Within the first 5 minutes of every episode, the lead character says “I wrote a mathematical equation that will…”. Of course it’s mathematical. The show is call Numb3rs, so we aren’t expecting redox equations. After only a few episodes, I’ve found it really tiresome.
But my biggest problem with the show is the way that it portrays one of the supporting characters, a physicist at a fictional California tech school. The math guy seems to be this socially adjusted, normal guy with decent grooming habits while the physicist is the stereotypical geek that isn’t able to relate to anyone outside of a research lab. This guy on our left…? Goofy hat. Bad tie. Allies with a Carpathian that is stuck in a painting. Not one of us.
Want to see the real deal? Here it is. Prepare yourselves. Note the piercing stare, the lean but muscular physique, and the clear and solid command over the laws which govern the entire known universe. One can practically see the waves of intellect that emanate from his mind. The fool from this show that masquerades as a student of natural philosophy would absolutely cower before a man of such towering intellect.
Yeah. That’s why they put us on stamps, bitches!