Mathematics in Popular Culture

Essays on Appearances in Film, Fiction, Games, Television and Other Media

$45.00

In stock (can be backordered)

Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist

About the Book

Mathematics has maintained a surprising presence in popular media for over a century. In recent years, the movies Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, and Stand and Deliver, the stage plays Breaking the Code and Proof, the novella Flatland and the hugely successful television crime series NUMB3RS all weave mathematics prominently into their storylines. Less obvious but pivotal references to the subject appear in the blockbuster TV show Lost, the cult movie The Princess Bride, and even Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
In this collection of new essays, contributors consider the role of math in everything from films, baseball, crossword puzzles, fantasy role-playing games, and television shows to science fiction tales, award-winning plays and classic works of literature. Revealing the broad range of intersections between mathematics and mainstream culture, this collection demonstrates that even “mass entertainment” can have a hidden depth.

About the Author(s)

Jessica K. Sklar, an associate professor of mathematics at Pacific Lutheran University, has published in the field of noncommutative ring theory and in the more readily accessible field of recreational mathematics.
Elizabeth S. Sklar, a professor emerita at Wayne State University, specializes in Old and Middle English language and literature. She has published extensively in the fields of modern and medieval Arthurian legend.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Jessica K. Sklar and Elizabeth S. Sklar
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 353
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos, appendices, notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4978-1
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8994-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Foreword by Keith Devlin      1
Introduction
JESSICA K. SKLAR and ELIZABETH S. SKLAR      3

Part One: The Game
A Survey of Fictional Mathematics in Literature
ALEX KASMAN      9
“You Never Said Anything about Math”: Math Phobia and Math Fanaticism in the World of Lost
KRISTINE LARSEN      27
What’s in a Name? The Matrix as an Introduction to Mathematics
KRIS GREEN      44
Mapping Contagion and Disease, Catastrophe and Destruction: Computer Modeling in the Epidemiological Disaster Narrative
KATHLEEN COYNE KELLY and DOUGLAS WHITTINGTON      55
Fair and Unfair Division in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon
WILLIAM GOLDBLOOM BLOCH and MICHAEL D. C. DROUT      71
Game Theory in Popular Culture: Battles of Wits and Matters of Trust
JENNIFER FIRKINS NORDSTROM      86
Coming Out of the Dungeon: Mathematics and Role-Playing Games
KRIS GREEN      99
Playing Moneyball: Math and Baseball
JEFF HILDEBRAND      114
A Mathematician Does the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle
GENE ABRAMS      123

Part Two: The Players
XKCD: A Web of Popular Culture
KAREN BURNHAM      137
Counting with the Sharks: Math-Savvy Gamblers in Popular Culture
MATTHEW LANE      148
Stand and Deliver Twenty Years Later
KSENIJA SIMIC-MULLER, MAURA VARLEY GUTIÉRREZ and RODRIGO JORGE GUTIÉRREZ      163
Smart Girls: The Uncanny Daughters of Arcadia and Proof
SHARON ALKER and ROBERTA DAVIDSON      172
Mean Girls: A Metamorphosis of the Female Math Nerd
KRISTIN ROWAN      187
The Mathematical Misanthrope and American Popular Culture
KENNETH FAULKNER      198
Alan Turing: Reflecting on the Life, Work, and Popular Representations of a Queer Mathematician
K. G. VALENTE      219
Mat(t)h Anxiety: Math as Symptom in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting
DONALD L. HOFFMAN      233

Part Three: Math + Metaphor
Thinking Outside the Box: Application Versus Discovery in Saw and Cube
JESSICA K. SKLAR      247
Tolstoy’s Integration Metaphor from War and Peace
STEPHEN T. AHEARN      258
“We’ll all change together”: Mathematics as Metaphor in Greg Egan’s Fiction
NEIL EASTERBROOK      265
Truth by the Numbers: Mysticism and Madness in Darren Aronofsky’s π
LAURIE A. FINKE and MARTIN B. SHICHTMAN      274
Flatland in Popular Culture
LILA MARZ HARPER      288
Discovering a Higher Plane: Dimensionality and Enlightenment in Flatland and Diaspora
CHRIS PAK      304
Projective Geometry in Early Twentieth-Century Esotericism: From the Anthroposophical Society to the Thoth Tarot
RICHARD KACZYNSKI      314

Appendices
A: Mathematics in Performance Media      333
B: Mathematics in Fiction and Poetry      334
About the Contributors      337
Index      341

Book Reviews & Awards

“a fun read, accessible to all…recommended”—Choice; “I was fascinated by the facts”—AWM Newsletter.