Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dangerous Knowledge

While googling, I came across two amazing mathematical documentaries “Fermat’s Last Theorem” and “Dangerous Knowledge”. Both have been filmed and narrated in a popular science style approach and show two completely different facets of a mathematician. The first one “Fermat’s Last Theorem” tells the story of a modern mathematician called Andrew Wiles, who achieved a great feat by proving Fermat’s last theorem in 1994. This unsolved problem had haunted the most brilliant minds of the world for centuries after Pierre de Fermat first conjectured it in his treatise in 1637. The documentary shows the commitment and single mindedness of the Andrew wiles for pursuing his ultimate quest of proving Fermat’s Last Theorem. This is a real story of a real mathematician who considers himself fortunate for getting an opportunity to pursue his dream and see his patience and hard work bear fruit in his lifetime.

The second documentary narrates the stories of four of the greatest mathematicians in history of mathematics Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. The basic thought behind the documentary was to reveal the other side of the story i.e. when the quest of knowledge is so obsessive that one loses oneself in the whole pursuit which ultimately lead to their madness and tragic deaths. This is not new in the field of mathematics. The reason behind me saying that is because in mathematics, it is a very fortunate thing to see your work get recognized by your peers/contemporaries in your life time. The pursuit may be worth chasing and may revolutionize the understanding but it is very difficult to get the recognition if it shakes the vary foundations of the contemporary mathematics. That’s exactly what is narrated as part of second documentary where the quest for understanding infinity is what led these mathematicians to insanity.
The first documentary is a story of a dream, success and its recognition while the second one is story of quest, life in seclusion and eventually a tragic end.

Let me know your thoughts on the same……