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Sixty Minutes, CBS, March 14 2002. "Nash: Film No Whitewash'' is the headline on the website for the Mike Wallace interview. "Dr. John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning mathematician whose life is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film `A Beautiful Mind,' denies being anti-Semitic. His wife denies he's homosexual. And a son denies he's a bad father.'' As Mike Wallace says: "It's been suggested that some of competing producers from other films that have been nominated have been spreading this stuff to the press'' in the heat of the campaign for the Oscars. The site features excerpts from the interview and two short streaming video segments. No math.
New York Times Business section, April 11 2002. "Economic Scene; You've seen the movie. Now just exactly what was it that John Nash had on his beautiful mind?'' by Hal R. Varian. A business-oriented analysis of Nash's game-theoretic contributions, including a worked-outexample of a Nash equilibrium. The article, available online, ends as follows: "Back to picking up girls. In the movie, the fictional John Nash described a strategy for his male drinking buddies, but didn't look at the game from the woman's perspective, a mistake no game theorist would ever make. A female economist I know once told me that when men tried to pick her up, the first question she asked was: "Are you a turkey?" She usually got one of three answers: "Yes," "No," and "Gobble-gobble." She said the last group was the most interesting by far. Go figure.''
Public Television, April 28 2002. "A Brilliant Madness.'' A one-hour documentary, presumably giving the reality behind the movie. The good part is substantial interviews with real people who were there: mathematicians (Mel Hausner, Felix Browder, Harold Kuhn, D. J. Newman), the economist Paul Samuelson, family and friends (Martha Nash Legg, John Stier, Alicia Nash, Donald Reynolds, Herta Newman, Zepporah Levinson) and quite a bit of the present-day John Nash himself. The bad part is many tedious minutes of generic video footage. The missing part is any look at Nash's mathematics beyond the title pages of his great papers, and any hint of the darker sides of his pre-breakdown personality. Public Television could have done better. Much ancillary material, including Nash interviews that were not part of the show and a primer on game theory by Avinash Dixit (Princeton, Economics) is available online.DNA Computer solves a hard problem. Here's the problem: assign values 0 (False) or 1 (True) to the 20 variables A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T so that the following 24-fold product gives the value 1
(c+p+R)(E+L+i)(m+b+T)(L+h+e)(S+d+F)(I+L+e)(a+D+k)(M+b+s)(E+Q+I)(O+I+q) (e+i+l)(F+K+D)(o+q+G)(f+S+M)(l+i+E)(L+A+N)(T+C+B)(J+g+h)(e+I+l)(R+t+C) (j+r+p)(A+k+n)(H+g+o)(H+P+j) = 1
|where a = 1-A , b = 1-B etc., and + stands for the logical "or'':|| |
|"Suppose Alice will attend a party only if Caroline does and Bobby doesn't, while Caroline insists that Eric and Francesca be there. Eric, though, refuses to be in the same room with Alice unless Bobby is there to distract her attention. Try to accommodate 20 such prima donnas and there are more than a million (2 to the 20th power) possible combinations to consider.''|
NPR scooped the New York Times on this story. The best the Times could do was to run an AP dispatch ("UK Math Whiz May Have Solved Problem'') on April 25. This piece, however, does a little better on the mathematical background: "Before Poincare, mathematicians ... could list all the possible shapes of two-dimensional surfaces and use mathematical calculations to distinguish between them. His question, or conjecture, was whether the two-dimensional calculations could be easily modified to answer similar questions about three-dimensional spaces. He was pretty sure the answer was yes but couldn't prove it mathematically. Nearly 100 years later, math whizzes remain stuck. Even more frustrating, ... dimensions of four or higher were proven mathematically by American and British experts in the last 40 years. That leaves three dimensions as the remaining problem.'' The AP was also more explicit about the skepticism. They quoted Ian Stewart (Warwick; "This looks like a competent attempt'') and Colin Rourke (Warwick; "He's acknowledged the gap in his solution that I pointed out. ... He doesn't have cast-iron proof.'' The article is available onlineSidewalk math on NPR. The very next segment on the April 16 Morning Edition began like this. Bob Edwards again: "Unsolved math mysteries are for the experts, but what about the rest of us? New York math teacher George Nobl is taking the subject to the streets. He's on a mission to transform the subject from something to avoid to something that is fun.'' This is the same George Nobl who appeared in the New York Times on February 7 and was picked up in this column. NPR correspondent Madeleine Brand was sent out to do the interview. She described the problem of the day: You have 20 lbs. of cashews selling at $3.55 a pound. Peanuts sell for $2.50 a pound. How much peanuts should you add to the cashews to get a mixture selling at $3.20? Brand: "So this is a real-life question?'' Nobl: "They all are.'' The segment is also available online, where you will find "expanded coverage'' and therein a link to the answer.
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