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Touched by the Goddess: On Ramanujan (inference-review.com)
148 points by benbreen 166 days ago | hide | past | web | 16 comments | favorite

"In another scene, Ramanujan goes to the post office to see if there are any letters from his wife. When a dejected Ramanujan leaves the post office empty-handed, he is approached by a group of young men in military uniform. Ramanujan is mocked, kicked, pushed to the ground, and his face left bloodied. This event never occurred. There was not a single instance when Ramanujan was physically abused because of racial prejudice."

Why do you think this scene was manufactured? Should it be chalked up to trying to make reality more interesting or to an effort to deliver themes aligned with audience expectations?

This convenient story seems to be picked up by a lot of people who have not read the book, e.g. "World War I throws the campus into chaos and exposes Ramanujan to more pointed racism." (http://www.filmjournal.com/reviews/film-review-man-who-knew-...) or "...what we received instead was a shameful expose of twentieth century racism, an exploration of otherness, professional jealousy and small mindedness" (http://teachingmathsscholars.org/news/the-maths-scholars-sch...)

In fact I've always found Ramanujan's story to be an excellent example of open-mindedness and the meritocratic approach to judging people.

Drama, that's all. For a movie about math, there was pretty much zero math the entire time...

It wasn't about math, but the mythology of a mathematician.

For a movie about math, it was extremely boring.

> In fact I've always found Ramanujan's story to be an excellent example of open-mindedness and the meritocratic approach to judging people.

Can you elaborate on how those themes are more prevalent in reality than the underdog against a racist system ones presented in the movie?

I coincidentally watched the movie last night. Overall, I recommend it. As a nerd, I felt they were a little bit light on the details of what his work meant. Unfortunately, unlike with computer movies, they couldn't create a tangible mock-up ("this is Unix, I know this...", "I'm hacking a Gibson") so it felt like there was a vacuum in the room every time they stressed how important the contents of his notebooks were but said nothing about what they actually contained. There was also a little bit of preachiness around one character being an atheist and that being a kind of bad thing, so heads up.

For a good after-movie read, someone also did a more detailed write-up of his wife's life, here: http://www.imsc.res.in/~rao/ramanujan/newnow/janaki.pdf

There was a really good play I saw about Ramanujan's life that actually talked about the mathematics part. It was a fictional piece of work but quite enjoyable. It was called A Disappearing Number

Great blog post. I really enjoyed the film, and of course an incredible story.

Stephen Wolfram also has a fascinating, in-depth blog post on Ramanujan - http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2016/04/who-was-ramanujan/

I wonder if we'll ever understand how intuition like this really works in the brain.

You may like reading this [0]. each one of us has an infinite source of creative power mostly dormant. For some like Ramanujan, it's awakened with a greater degree. The book goes into steps to awaken it and I can attest to it that with quality meditation and perseverance, this can be gradually awakened and channelized. A sincere practitioner starts to get experiences (verifying he's onto something) within a month of regular, quality practice.

This can be awakened by meditation, devotion (like in case of Ramanujan) or by selfless work. All of them falls under Yoga, which means "to unite" with your true self, the infinitely powerful, whose nature is self-existence, knowledge and bliss.

0: https://www.amazon.com/Kundalini-Untold-Story-Himalayan/dp/0...

Thanks, will have a look at the book. If it is an easily repeatable process though, I wonder why we don't have more Ramanujans? Is there a genetic component to it?

> each one of us has an infinite source of creative power mostly dormant

What does this mean in practical terms? Is it objectively

If you like reading up on such topics, I strongly recommend S. Chandrasekhar's "Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivation in Science".

Why do we keep hearing so much about Ramanujan? Of the greatest mathematicians, is he even in the top 10? 20? 30?

I'm not sure how one would go about compiling an objective list of the top 10 or 20 or 30 mathematicians (which would be required to answer your second question), but to answer your first question - we probably keep hearing about him because he was undeniably a good (if not great) mathematician and that his story is both inspiring (or feel-good) and tragic at the same time. We like narratives, and his life story is a narrative that is almost "magical" (to quote Steven Wolfram's blog post on him, "Will there ever be another Ramanujan? I don’t know if it’s the legend of Ramanujan or just a natural feature of the way the world is set up, but for at least 30 years I’ve received a steady stream of letters that read a bit like the one Hardy got from Ramanujan back in 1913 ... Are these numerical facts significant? I don’t know. Wolfram|Alpha can certainly generate lots of similar facts, but without Ramanujan-like insight, it’s hard to tell which, if any, are significant." [1])

[1] http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2016/04/who-was-ramanujan/

His story is very appealing as a story: young mathematical genius from India, learns mostly as an autodidact from only a few resources, re-discovering things on his own, often poor and sick. Finally gets recognized as a "genius" by the western mathematics world. Then dies young, leaving many insightful works that are only understood and applied years after his death.

And while it's incredibly hard to come up with a definition of "greatest mathematicians", he is quite high up there in many rankings, top 30 at least.

I am not a mathematician, therefore, thoroughly underqualified to judge mathematicians. However, I recommend George Andrews' lecture[1] on Ramanujan's relevance to current mathematics. I wish they'd make more movies about (other) mathematicians and scientists too, minus the fake drama like Ramanujan's physical abuse seen in this one.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_0NuOBNobk

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