Mathematical Models PhotoFilm3 - maths at the movies

5.45pm 27 March, 1 April and 3 April 2008
Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Mathematics is at the core of life, nature and the physical world. Film can explore every part of human and non-human existence.

This season of mathematical movies was created by ICMS and Filmhouse Cinema to bring these ideas together at the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2008. Three very different examples of independent film-making were presented. Though built on mathematical concepts all the films have at least as much to say about society as they have about maths. Immediately after each screening there was an audience discussion on issues arising from the films, sometimes continuing over coffee and drinks afterwards.

Flatland stillThe season opened on 27 March with a full house for the UK premier of the highly acclaimed animation, Flatland the Film. Based on the 1889 novel by Edwin A. Abbot the basic tackles our own race, gender, religion and globalization issues from a wholly new perspective! 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 recognize.

As the screening of Flatland was the UK premier everyone attending the screening received a "goody bag" to mark the occasion. Goodies included 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 from ICMS, the essential mathematical tool kit, a pen, a pencil and notepad!

The discussion following Flatland the Film was chaired by Chris Eilbeck from ICMS. Maximillian Ruffert of University of Edinburgh and Katie Russell of Heriot-Watt University answered the wide-ranging questions from the audience.

Flatland the film has attracted a couple of blog reviews, on Semaphore for Ducks and on the Transreal Ficion blog.

Pi stillPi was screened on 1 April. This film explores the life and experiences of Max, a gifted mathematician obsessed with finding the underlying numerical pattern behind the global stock market. He believes everything in the universe can be expressed in purely mathematical terms. External forces from religion and commerce are keen to exploit his research. Internal doubts and pressures take their toll on Max.

The post film session was chaired by Madeleine Shepherd of ICMS. The audience were keen to discuss the implications of Pi and the world view of its main characters with Giorgos Papageorgiou and Tim Johnson of Heriot Watt University.

Cube stillApril 3 saw the final film in the season. 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.

Science fiction author and mathematician Hannu Rajaniemi presented a summary of the mathematical research behind the mechanisms in the film and took questions from the audience arising from the mathematics in Cube. Chair for the evening Chris Eilbeck has written a short explanation of some of the theory behind the plot.