31 January 2008

What [not] to watch: NUMB3RS

NUMB3RS is a show about a mathematician helping the FBI solve crimes. Mathematician... After seeing "A Beautiful Mind" and "Proof", I had really high expectations and they unfortunately haven't been met.

The first two episodes were based on real events. I didn't get to watch the first one, but the second one was amazing. Watching it felt like being at a math lecture and seeing a long proof: you put a lot of effort and spend a lot of time on collecting many facts. Some of them you have, some you try to assume and see where they lead you. At the end, they all of a sudden all make sense, all are related and alltogether form a beautiful and consistent proof. The plot followed the way the mathematician's mind worked, collecting information, deducting, trying assumptions, then trying stronger assumptions, deducting again... yummy!

Sadly, the writers aren't as good as real life can be. In the following episodes, the mathematician was much more like a superheroe: he guessed something amazing now and then, and nobody knew how or why. When he noticed something, it was okay (math works like that quite often), but when he discovered a mathematical structure that allowed him to recover data deleted from a hard drive... when every kid knows that deleting files doesn't really delete them... I quit.

Too bad mathematicians are too busy to write screenplays. Hmmm, maybe students... Man, wouldn't this world be an amazing place if science geeks replaced the striking writers?

[Picture source]

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