Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


No publicity is bad publicity, I suppose

File under: Queen of Sciences, I Read The News Today, Oh Boy. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 8:27 am.

A combination of morbid curiosity and masochism will see me parked in front of my TV on Sunday nights, watching Numb3rs (part of the word is a number - clever, eh?):

To help capture a serial rapist-turned-killer, FBI Special Agent Don Eppes recruits his genius brother Charlie, who uses a mathematical equation to identify the killer’s point of origin by working back from the crime scene locations.

Via Learning Curves, which provides the appropriate snark. Who knows, though. It’s inspired by actual events! And the Caltech head of mathematics is a consultant for the show - which may have something to do with the fact that the character of Charlie is a hottie who seems mentally stable and hygenic, unlike oh so many fictional mathematicians. We’ll see.

Update: Suresh at The GeomBlog shatters my optimism:

…the preview is not encouraging. There are exchanges like ‘Life is more than just numbers ! Life is all about numbers !’, and inane sequences where the math whiz says ‘There is no statistical evidence for X’, his brother says ‘X will happen’, and lo and behold, X happens.

Right. Well, life is all about numbers; for instance, today I have plans to 234 22467 6126721. With maybe a little time for some 827 3222132 after lunch.


  1. I actually think that the first few episodes will have swirls of patterns streaming by, in which the mathematician, thru some mysterious mystical process, picks out the right pattern (ZOOM to pattern !) that cracks the case. In other words, mathematician as mystic.

    - Suresh — 12/28/2004 @ 9:24 am

  2. The poll on the show’s website amuses me: it’s a good question, but the options are just ridiculous:

    Do you use mathematics on a day-to-day basis?
    Of course. Doesn’t everybody?
    Probably, but don’t ask me how.
    Not daily, but most days.

    Oddly enough, an overwhelming majority of respondents seem to have gone for the first option. I wonder what the sample space is like?

    - Alison — 12/28/2004 @ 1:18 pm

  3. Hm. Maybe options are not all that ridiculous, but still, there’s a definitely need of a “I use math in my job, but I do realize some people get by without it” as opposed to what sounds to me like the clueless mathematician response of “doesn’t everybody?” as well as a flat-out “no! I don’t need math!” option. (Or is “Probably, but don’t ask me how” a polite was of saying that? It sounds like a dim-witted thing to say to me.)

    - Alison — 12/28/2004 @ 1:28 pm

  4. Suresh - ah right, because mathematical ability is something that you either have, or you don’t, and there’s nothing that the second group can do to join the first group. It’s MAGIC!

    Alison - yeah, when I chose the first option I thought, “Yeah, but if I didn’t teach math for a living, I probably wouldn’t use math every day…”

    - Moebius Stripper — 12/28/2004 @ 3:20 pm

  5. Well, my job is pretty much about using math and trying to get other people to understand what I’ve done.

    Yeah, what we need is a crime-fighting actuary, who picks up odd correlations while doing a mortality study and finds a nefarious supervillain who’s a real mass murderer….

    A spike in the age-61 mortality rate, say, above the age-62 rate… significantly above….

    Ok, maybe that doesn’t sound exciting.

    I will not be watching this show, as it breaks one of my aesthetic principles. You must tell me if they ever blow up the Chrysler Building or live in ridiculously oversized Manhattan apartments, so I can hate it even more.

    - meep — 1/3/2005 @ 3:32 am

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