At this afternoon's performance of A Disappearing Number, a play about Mathematics, creativity, infinity, mysticism, mortality and everything you can think about on those lines. I liked it, the stagecraft was excellent, the cast was good, the plot was contrived at times but overall worked for me. The main characters are Ramanujan, Hardy, a current day Math professor, a string theorist and a hedge fund guy, so let me see if I can get Bill to write something about the play.
So anyway, we are at this play, the theatre is almost full. Numbers thrown around everywhere. The opening scene, probably the best, starts with the professor writing numbers on the whiteboard and explaining that its integral to the evening's performance. Yes, yes, Riemann zeta, -1/12, 1+1/2+1/4+1/8... have all made their appearance already. Three minutes into it and Bill whispers:
"Yes, this is so cool"
"No. The Zeta"
"She gets the Zeta right. No one draws a perfect Zeta. Its not exactly an easy letter to write"
"If you say so. Shut up now"
Halfway into the play. By now, numbers are everywhere. Black board, screen, conversations, voice overs that junta's stopped paying attention to the numbers and are trying to concentrate on the play. Voice over of Ramanujan. He is on the ship from Madras to London and is talking about his journey. It goes something like this:
"We leave Madras which is at 13 degree latitude, 13 is a prime number and then we turn to XXX whose latitude is 7 which is also a prime number....(this goes on for sometime and finally)...into the English Channel and we reach London, latitude is 51 which is also a prime number"
This time, Bill's voice is loud and clear.
"No, its not"
Some 56 pairs of eyes turn towards us. Obviously everyone wants to see the man who dares to contradict Ramanujan (well, the one in the play). An uncomfortable 5 seconds and I am about to burst into laughter when Bill goes:
"Well, its still not prime. 3. Try 3"