One of the most important international prizes for mathematics has this year been awarded jointly to two outstanding mathematicians — even though one of them was originally unable to find a publisher for his groundbreaking work.
The season opens on 27 March with the UK premiere of the highly acclaimed animation, Flatland the Film. Based on the 1889 novel by Edwin A. Abbot, the film tackles issues revolving around race, gender, religion and globalisation. Mr A. Square is an average middle-class Flatlander until enlightenment allows him to see his world from a
different dimension. He discovers that Flatland is threatened by forces it cannot possibly recognise. Will he be able to save his family and his world? Everyone attending the screening will receive a "goody bag" containing postcards signed by Flatland's director Ladd Ehlinger Jr, a copy of the novel donated by Transreal Fiction, vouchers from Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Science Festival, and other mathematical goodies from ICMS. A discussion led by Maximillian Ruffert of University of Edinburgh and Katie Russell of Heriot-Watt University will follow
You can read the Plus review of the original 1889 novel Flatland in the Plus article 'Flatland'.
Pi is screened on 1 April and explores the life and experiences of Max, a gifted mathematician who believes that everything in the Universe can be expressed mathematically. He becomes obsessed with finding the underlying pattern behind the stock market, but religious and commercial groups try to exploit his research. Can he pass through this
philosophical maelstrom and survive unscathed? Giorgos Papageorgiou and Tim Johnson of Heriot Watt University will discuss the film with the audience after the screening.
The final film, Cube, is screened on April 3. Cube investigates the relationships between six apparently unconnected individuals who wake up inside a three-dimensional maze of interlocking cubes. Developing mutual trust is the key to survival as they are forced to collaborate on cracking the code behind the
Cube's mechanism. How many will escape to discover the bigger mystery that lies outside their existentialist prison? Science fiction author and mathematician Hannu Rajaniemi will discuss questions arising from the mathematics in Cube with the audience.
Tickets are available for individual films, or at a discounted rate for all three, from the box office at Filmhouse Cinema, 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH3 9BZ (phone: 0131 228 2688). Each screening will start at 5.45pm, and there will be discussion in the theatre after the screening, and then over coffee and drinks.
The 2008 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Polish mathematical physicist Michael Heller. Heller has worked for more than 40 years in theology, philosophy, mathematics and cosmology, and intends to use the £820,000 prize to set up a cross-university and inter-disciplinary institute to
investigate questions in science, theology and philosophy.
16th century depiction of Genesis (Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel): God creates Adam. Like Galileo, Heller thinks that mathematics is the "language of
The Templeton Prize was founded in 1972 by philanthropist Sir John Templeton, and is awarded annually to a living person for "progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities". It is the world's largest annual monetary prize of any kind given to an individual (£820,000). Plus reported on John Barrow's success in 2006.
Heller has been rewarded for "developing sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the Universe, often under intense (communist Poland) governmental repression."
Heller's work these days is largely in non-commutative geometry, which he uses to attempt to remove the problem of a cosmological singularity at the origin of the Universe. "If on the fundamental level of physics there is no space and no time, as many physicists think," says Heller, "non-commutative geometry could be a suitable tool to deal with such a situation."
You can read more on non-commutative geometry in the Plus article Quantum Geometry.
Physical demonstration of mathematical traffic model
Recently, Plusreported on work done by mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest into why traffic jams often occur for seemingly no reason.
Now, for the first time, researchers from several Japanese universities have recreated this effect by placing 22 vehicles on a 230-metre single-lane circuit. The drivers drove at a steady 30 kilometres per hour, and whilst initially the traffic flowed smoothly, eventually a backwards travelling shock-wave developed which forced some cars to almost stop and others to increase their speed to 40
kilometres per hour to catch the car in front.
L-functions underpin much of twentieth century number theory. They feature in the proof of Fermat's last theorem, as well as playing a part in the recent classification of congruent numbers, a problem first posed one thousand years ago.