A really smart guy has done the unthinkable. He’s made the world’s most boring subject sexy, sensual and erotic. You know I’m talking about maths.
At first, Frenkel’s love for maths made no sense and then my a-ha moment came. Frenkel, like me, loves symbols. Numerals are symbols for numbers, and words are symbols to communicate ideas which form the basis for creativity. We are more alike than I imagined.
Cue the sexy, sensual and erotic
To create a maths buzz everywhere, Frenkel collaborated with French director Reine Graves to write, produce and direct a 26 minute movie The Rites of Love and Math. It’s a tribute to an older Japanese film by writer Yukio Mishima and is shot on a Kabuki set.
In the movie Frenkel appears naked with his female co-star on a bed.
Frenkel’s YouTube lessons as maths professor at University of California, Berkeley get thousands to hundreds of thousands of views. Who knew there was such an appetite for multivariable calculus? Then again, I’m sure all viewers don’t really want to learn maths.
Frenkel is to maths what Nigella Lawson (pictured) is to cooking.
A search for love and truth
In his movie, a mathematician (Frenkel) discovers a formula of love. He later learns that the formula can also become, if used in the wrong way, a weapon of destruction. In come the baddies who chase him to get the precious formula for their evil goals. Sounds like a Disney plot, right?
In a bid to preserve the formula, the mathematician tattoos it on the body of his female lover before killing himself. Grim stuff, but good actually triumphs evil as the formula lives on.
As love is truth and truth is love I guess Frenkel wants the movie to show that all mathematicians search for truth and perhaps beauty, given the hero chooses a woman to keep his formula alive.
Pimping out maths
Somehow I don’t think I can diss maths anymore. Frenkel has shown me that we are all connected by our passion for what we do; it drives us to seek truth.
Besides, anyone who can pimp out maths and create and take a film about it to Cannes Film Festival is pretty gobsmacking. What’s more, Frenkel has managed to bring positive change; surely we can no longer think of maths as the world’s most boring subject?
I’m so inspired I want to collaborate with Baz Luhrmann and make a lavish movie: Public Relations – The Musical and then take it Broadway. Although I’ll need a brainstorming session with Frenkel first.
Maths on the move
And, in case you hadn’t yet heard, maths is staging a comeback. Another mathematician, Peter Turchin, is applying maths to analyse history in the hopes of finding patterns to predict the future.
Turchin, a professor at University of Connecticut, has developed a mathematical formula which, he says, may explain why the US reached shutdown mode.
And there’s more. Only two months ago, American Scientist paid tribute to prime numbers. It quotes from an essay by mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner, “’No branch of number theory is more saturated with mystery and elegance than the study of prime numbers’”.
Maths is so hot right now and Frenkel would approve. In fact, he’s refused to rest on his integers and found time to release a book Love and Math earlier this month.
Stats on Frenkel and me
Now, since I’m not mathematically inclined, yet successfully manage complex budgets and profit and loss statements, I need some help with a small problem.
I want to know what is the statistical probability of Frenkel and me ever connecting, for a maths lesson? Well, by all accounts, he believes everyone is capable of learning maths if it’s explained in the right way.
I think the probability of meeting is zero, but you never know. Frenkel reminds us that anything is possible.
- Has Edward Frenkel changed your view on maths?