The movie is based on one of the best mathematical tales ever written. Inhabiting a two-dimensional world populated by polygons and ruled by circular tyrants, a bright young hexagon, through sheer mathematical willpower, imagines a third dimension.
Given that 14 billion years have elapsed since the birth of the Universe and that the cosmos contains a mind-boggling 1024 stars, can Earth really be the only planet in the entire Universe to contain life?
I suspect maths in primary school would be greeted with far more enthusiasm if students had Ian Stewart as a teacher. Any man who can explain electromagnetism, gravity and atomic nuclear forces in terms of a piggy fridge magnet and a smashed kitchen plate is, surely, a communicator to be reckoned with.
Longitude was first published in 1996, occupying a substantial portion of many a Waterstones table around Christmas-time. The book has endorsements from Patrick O'Brien and Neil Armstrong, and a blurb that cheerfully describes the search for longitude as a "true-life thriller".