## Leonhard Euler

# Pi (1998)

# Kaan Asker

Unlike the previous reviews, this week we have chosen a fiction film, Pi - a 1998 psychological thriller film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Filmed on a high-contrast black-and-white reversal, the film earned the Directing Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, and the Gotham Open Palm Award.

The film pi not only analyzes the relevance of mathematics to our complex world but also emphasizes the relationship between mathematics and madness. In the film, there is a constant conflict between numerology and proper number theory.

Summary (Skip This Part If You Don’t Want to Have Spoilers)

An unemployed number theorist Max builds a computer, Euclid, to find patterns in the stock market. He firmly believes that there are mathematical patterns everywhere in the world. Eventually, when analyzing the numbers of the stock market, his computer malfunctions, printing out a seemingly random 216-digit number and then crashes. Max, who initially thinks this is a failure, throws the number to the bin and goes to see Sol, a retired number theorist. Max tells him about this 216-digit number; then Sol mentions his encounter with a 216-digit number when he was trying to find numerical patterns in the mathematical constant . After this, Max meets with Lenny, a devout Jew and also an amateur numerologist, who searches for patterns in the Jewish Holy Book, Torah. Lenny also mentions he is searching for a 216-digit number which he believes is the unspeakable name of God.

During these two meetings, Max becomes convinced that this 216-digit number he has found is common in the stock market, and Torah; from that point onwards the number becomes an obsession for Max. After he realizes the number correctly predicts the market values of several bonds, Max tries to find the paper which he threw in the bin after the crash of Euclid. He becomes unsuccessful, but an anonymous Wall Street firm, who knows Max is close to finding a pattern in the stock market, finds this paper and causes the market to crash. In the meantime, Sol successfully finds the number via analyzing and then dies due to a heart attack. Max is kidnapped by Lenny’s Jewish friends; they force him to give the 216-digit number. This Jewish sect believes the utterance of the number would start the messianic age. Max escapes, goes mad, and drills his head.

Characters

Sol Robenson

A retired mathematics professor who analyzes for 30 years. When he is very close to find some pattern in the number, he has a heart attack. He is the first person to encounter the 216-digit number. He leaves studying mathematics after the heart attack; he is the teacher and the only friend of Max. Unlike Max, he thinks Maths cannot answer every question in the complex world since there are so many variables and possibilities. When Max becomes obsessed with the number, he tries to stop him. He distinguishes between numerology and number theory: “But Max, as soon as you discard scientific rigor, you are no longer a mathematician, you are a numerologist!”

Max Cohen

Max suffers from hallucinations and schizophrenia, which makes the film a psychological thriller. Max is a genius, having a Ph.D. from Maths at 20; he becomes obsessed with the 216-digit number.

His obsession worsens his mental disorder and forces him to suicide.

The Message of The Film

Abandonment of scientific methods while doing research and only focusing on a particular thing rather than seeing the whole picture creates obsession and destroys mathematical rigor. Also, the research’s sole purpose must not be validating the hypothesis but to search for the truth.

In conclusion, I recommend all students interested in science and maths to watch this film because of its message about the nature of research. However, I must warn you; in addition to maths, this is a thriller film that contains violence.

References:

“Pi (1998).” IMDb, www.imdb.com/title/tt0138704. Accessed 10 Mar. 2021.

Wikipedia contributors. “Pi (Film - Wikipedia.” Free Encyclopedia, 1998, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi_(film.