Lights, camera, action – maths and the movies adds up to a winning formula
DAVID Baraff's talk about the equations behind Ratatouille isn't the only event at which the Edinburgh International Science Festival will be examining maths at the movies.
Building on the success of last year's "film cubed" series at the city's Filmhouse, the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) – set up in 1990 by Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities – will be returning to the cinema with three films featuring maths or mathematicians.
On Tuesday, the programme will show the first film in the series – The Oxford Murders, featuring John Hurt as an Oxford mathematician and Elijah Wood as his postgraduate student, who find themselves at the heart of a murder mystery.
"There's a lot of mathematics spread throughout it but it's not central to the story," explains the ICMS's Madeleine Shepherd.
"While The Oxford Murders is fiction, our second film, 21, is a fictionalised account of a true story.
"It stars Kevin Spacey as a maths professor at MIT who trains his students to count cards on blackjack tables."
The Hollywood blockbuster, which also stars Kate Bosworth and Laurence Fishburne, will be shown on Thursday.
The mathematical series concludes on 16 April with N Is A Number, a documentary about Paul Erds, whom Ms Shepherd describes as "one of the oddest mathematicians to live last century".
Following the final screening, the Filmhouse will host an audience discussion on mathematicians in the movies, with the financial mathematician Tim Johnson and the writer Andrew J Wilson.
As well as looking at maths at the movies, the ICMS is also bringing Allen Knutson – "the juggling mathematician" – to the festival.
Knutson, a lecturer at Cornell University, has used maths to help him come up with new stunts and he will be showing off his tricks on 14 April at Edinburgh University's school of informatics.
• The Edinburgh International Science Festival begins today and runs until 18 April, offering 170 events in 26 venues across the city. For full details of the programme, and for tickets, visit www.sciencefestival.co.uk or call 0131 553 0322.
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