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Thank you? The place I pontificate the most, where I understand my audience, is the Komodo Kamado forum (the best ceramic BBQ made, by Art Linkletter's grandson who I've come to know): https://komodokamadoforum.com/profile/249-syzygies/

I'm known there for a "smoke pot" system for controlling smoke, and doing the math on creating steam for bread.

As a mathematician, I'm best known for my "seven shuffles" card shuffling work with Persi Diaconis, the computer algebra system "Macaulay" (too much C code), and being the math consultant for "A Beautiful Mind".

I really shouldn't blog. I'm still trying to come up with an understandable proof of the Poincare Conjecture.




and being the math consultant for "A Beautiful Mind"

I love Hacker News


Maybe you should blog. I love your writing, here and in past comments.

By the way, curious about your reference to Italy and wine in the above comment. I'm from Italy and thought you could be from there, or at least had an experience in Italy.


I've probably lived there six months, in pieces. I love the islands off Sicily.


A Beautiful Mind was a great movie, congrats for participating in such a nice contribution to popular culture. Do you write on window glass? ;)


Yes. I was Russell Crowe's hand double. If it wasn't his head showing it was me.

He got the idea of acrylic nails to make his (our) hands longer like Nash. I'd be out in the village drinking with friends, and they'd point out my hands, describing the story. No one bought it. Then I'd say I was a Barbra Streisand impersonator. That I could sell, there was probably one in every bar down the street.

I got my nails done at the same NJ salon that Edie Falco used for the Sopranos. The woman who had promised to do the work was on a Caribbean cruise, so she phoned in. She asked me if I was doing anything else on the film besides being Russell's hand double? I told her I was also his love double.

"Will you be needing an extension for that too?"


What a delightful anecdote! Such a rich set of experiences. Is your last name also the name of a major German pharma corp?

> I told her I was also his love double.

In stitches right now. Did you get to hang out with Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly? Must be fun being a celeb :D

EDIT: you are in the pen ceremony as well! Wow I need to rewatch this urgently, it's definitely one of my favorite movies and I'll be on the lookout for the cameo :)

EDIT: I was born in 1992, watched it in theaters when I was 9. Time flies.


Not often an HN comment makes me laugh out loud.


I wonder/hope (if) it is real



> "It was supposed to be in some sense numerological gibberish, but he had the sense that it wasn't quite gibberish, and he wanted me to say what it was." And Nash was right, Bayer said: "It wasn't quite gibberish."

So what was it? The article seems to end on a cliffhanger.


That's a rabbit hole I'm happy to traverse.


In the Pentagon "War Room" scene, the walls are lined with backlit code transparencies, and Nash infers they're lattitudes and longitudes. The Art department was creating one slide at a time in Adobe Illustrator, and people can't pick random digits, so I wrote a C program to generate all the slides, that Art could control for creative effect. As the scene drew near, I was asked to pick locations along the US/Canada border, such as Starkey Corners, Maine. Russell, fearing we were making these names up, challenged Akiva to prove they existed. Luckily I had a Maine atlas in my car.

Art made an error entering a longitude by hand. It moved the spot 200 yards, so instead of pointing this out I updated the script (mistake #1). Day of filming, Art tells me they caught the mistake, and had overnighted a corrected slide just in time. The "wrong" slide matching the script in Russell's trailer was two hours away. There was no question in Akiva's mind that we should get it. We sent a driver.

Now, I knew Ron Howard would be asking me which slides were which, when we filmed the crucial scene. I asked Art so I could move slides as needed, and was told the head of Art had spent all day positioning them. I innocently found the head of Art to ask him to relay his permission.

Oops. In front of dozens of crew he eviscerated me, telling me I was assuming too great a role, I was just a consultant, I should learn my place. (My role had indeed expanded. There's too much to do on a film.)

After we each had a word with Akiva, I discovered that the soon-arriving "wrong" slide was already in perfect position for filming. I had needlessly prevailed in a confrontation I could have avoided (mistake #2).

During preproduction I had offered to Russell that if he ever wanted to use me in a joke, I was game. Russell had missed the festivities so far. Rehearsing at a map table, he feigned not knowing where one of the locations was. The room froze for what seemed an eternity; he didn't mind. I snuck up silently to point on the map. He bellowed "Fuck off! I'm acting!" and turned to match my grin.

No one laughed. Anyone surprised I hadn't already quit that day was sure I'd quit now. Russell had no idea. He came to me later, wondering why no one laughed, he thought that was funny. I told him, "I thought it was funny. Who cares what anyone else thinks!"

We then spent half a day filming in front of the now-arrived "wrong" transparency matching the script in Russell's trailer. It turned out that Russell had memorized the coordinates (I hadn't). Yikes.

Akiva and I gave each other a silent hi-five look over this. Right call, getting a driver. This could have gone badly. So many decisions on a film set are a game of chance.

I even patched things up with the head of Art. The cinematographer Roger Deakins discovered that if he pulled down the slides the wall made a great backlight. The crew could only restore the original slide pattern because I'd made a chart. There was a strong pattern to the slide colors; this would otherwise have lead to continuity gaffes that many viewers would have noticed. So it appeared at first that I was the heathen about to destroy this artwork, when I was the person in the room who saved it.


Akiva Goldsman's instruction to me was to have Nash make gradual progress on the Riemann hypothesis, after he emerged from hospitalization. This isn't historically correct, but the film is a fictionalized account. That's challenging; most mathematicians only have experience with fiction writing for for grant proposals.

For the library scene late in the film, Nash is starting to make sense. I consulted with a few people actually thinking about the Riemann hypothesis. ("Working" on it is staring into the sun.) For those blackboards, they advised me to borrow from Pierre Deligne's work in characteristic p. I made sure that missing definitions prevented anyone from actually proving the boards were wrong. "Freeze-framing the DVD" was a stock phrase for us on the set, but in fact people mostly paid attention to the acting.

As a first year graduate student, I was struck by the similarities between covering spaces in my topology course and field extensions in my algebra course. Asking Barry Mazur in the hallway, he quite mystically intoned that everything is connected. That was the basis for the student approaching Nash in the library. Russell Crowe completely winged his long response at the table. I was seriously impressed.

Earlier, I got pilloried by some for the Harvard Lecture Hall scene where Nash is institutionalized. Hey, it comes with the territory. Nash associating spacetime with the quaternions? Brian Greene gave me such a great look when I tried this line on him that I knew we had to use it. It is crazy, and the scene required crazy. Nevertheless, complex quaternions can model geometries used in physics. The quaternions and octonions extend the complex numbers, one could look there to better understand the Riemann hypothesis. The quaternions are most famously used by game developers for efficient rotations, and one keeps seeing references (here on HN!) to the octonions as deeper. I was at a tech dinner party in Berkeley where various gamers including the founder of Second Life swarmed me to share a moment "Oh! The octonions!"

For the porch scene in question, where Nash is still pretty gorped, I had him playing with a visual notation for continued fractions. The Riemann zeta function doesn't even converge where one wants to understand its zeros. Continued fractions exhibit different convergence properties, somewhat like the light cast in a a park with trees. So I could imagine a gorped Nash obsessing on continued fractions.


Fascinating read - thanks for providing so much background information on the production!

And to add to the others, you should really blog about all this, or write a book.


The movie did receive much flak for taking too much creative liberties with Sylvia Nasser's book, and being too much of a Hollywood Conspiracy film.


This is the most beautiful thread I've read on Hacker News. Thank you.




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