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dmorin's Journal: Numb3rs

Journal by dmorin
So is anybody besides me watching Numb3rs, the new crime drama about the math geek who helps his FBI brother (Rob Morrow) solve crimes? The plots are not exactly rocket science, but thus far I'm finding the show entertaining enough to hope it sticks around.

One plot, for instance, found another mathematician (played by Doogie Howser) nearing a solution to the $1million Riemann prize when his daughter is kidnapped. That's actually a perfectly valid plotline combining FBI and math geeks. When it's determined that his solution is not correct, and Rob Morrow asks if his brother can't help out, he replies "You just asked me to solve a 150yr old math problem in a couple of hours." So they're being realistic about the tasks, too.

When the FBI brother is injured on duty, math brother (David Krumholtz, btw) retreats to his garage which he covers wall to wall (and ceiling) with chalkboards and begins working on unsolvable problems. "Please understand that I can't always work on what I want...sometimes I have to work on what's in my head" was the quote of that episode. Been there.

When I asked my math geek friend to watch it her primary complaint was that it is unrealistic to believe that a single math savant can each week demonstrate his genius is seemingly random areas of math. One week he was predicting the pattern of serial killers, the next he was doing structural integrity of skyscrapers, the one after that he was doing the spread of a disease. So she's got a point there. The only defense they've come up with so far is to make him a genius at "applied mathematics" so they have at least a basic excuse for why they can use him all over the place.

The writing is fun. Krumholtz's character manages to keep a great semi-smug expression on his face whenever trying to explain math to mere mortals. Sometimes he does it as if he really does want them to learn. On the subject of predicting the serial killers next move he said, "Imagine a lawn sprinkler. I can't predict where each drop of water will fall, it's impossible. Too many variables. But give me the location of enough drops, and I can tell you the location of the sprinkler."

Other times it comes off like he is treating them as 2yr olds. After discovering that 36 was a significant number in a code, somebody else spotted a 37 and declared that it must be connected to 36, since they were similar. "37 is prime," says Krumholtz, "36 is not. How could they be similar?"

Hey, I know it's not very deep stuff. But given that all primetime tv these days can be divided up into: fatguyhotwife sitcom, reality show, law and order spinoff, CSI spinoff, I have to say I'm finding it refreshing.

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Numb3rs

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For God's sake, stop researching for a while and begin to think!

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