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.
Mathematics in popular culture: essays on appearances in film, fiction, games, television and other media, ed. by Jessica K. Sklar and Elizabeth S. Sklar. McFarland, 2012. 345p bibl index afp ISBN 0786449780 pbk; ISBN 9780786449781 pbk. Reviewed in 2012sep CHOICE. • New from McFarland •
Mathematics pervades popular culture, as this resource tries to document with examples of considerable depth. Twenty-four essays are separated into three broad sections. Part 1 examines mathematics as found in literature, television, sport, and games. Part 2 looks at mathematics as found in films, theater, and journalism. The final part focuses on the use of mathematical metaphors in literature, cinema, and occultism. The book is geared to readers beyond the mathematical community. Accordingly, essay authors include mathematicians, scientists, English professors, film theorists, and specialists in cultural or occult phenomena. The tour is wide-ranging, from the expected examples of NUMB3RS, Proof, Arcadia, Cryptonomicon, and Flatland to the unexpected examples of Mean Girls, The Matrix, War and Peace, Moneyball, Lost, and crossword puzzles. It is important to stress that the essays go beyond surface-level examples of mathematics, providing views of significant mathematics such as game theory, computer modeling, fair division, gambling, multi-dimensions, and projective geometry. Each article includes reference notes, complemented overall by appendixes listing novels, films, plays, and television media that contain mathematical content. The book is a fun read, accessible to all, but it should be of special interest to a mathematical community that struggles to be part of popular culture.
Summing Up: Recommended. Academic and general audiences, all levels. -- J. Johnson, Western Washington University
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