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Numb3rs

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I have started watching this when I can. So far I have seen two episodes only though. They vary in quality somewhat, but at the moment I am leaning towards the conclusion that is a worthy series.

Being somewhat interested in mathematics, it is interesting watching Charlie solve complicated criminal cases using a highly developed mastery of Mathematics. Not quite having completed all of the first year Uni papers in Mathematics, I cannot be certain that elements of the maths used might not be a little off or overly simplified, but it seems pretty accurate.

Charlie seems an admirable enough character, he is a certaintly smart and competent enough, i respect that alot of course. I am not too sure about the rest of his personality yet as there is still abit of it that I have yet to have confirmed, but I must say he seems like a decent character so far.

What your thoughts on the show?

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  • 2 weeks later...
I haven't seen this show but it sounds like a great premise for a show and some of it's based on actual cases solved by math. I will be on the lookout for Season 1 dvd. Thanks for the recommendation.

You are quite welcome.

As I said, I have not have much of a chance to see much of it myself, but I will keep watching and hopefully I too will will be able to find Season 1 on DVD. I have had a brief look but have found no sign of it as of yet. It might not be out yet I suppose, Season 1 is only about half-way through here I am estimating.

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  • 4 years later...

Numb3rs is one our top shows and the number one crime show for us. The characters are credible and easy to relate to. The plots are good for television, some of them excellent, all of them cerebral to some extent. The mathematics is real enough for TV.

We do not watch television, but we do follow up on recommendations from friends. When I was working on an associate's in criminal justice, my classmates begged to be let out early to watch "24" a show highly touted by Objectivists. We rented some disks. I found it visceral, at best, stupid at worst, unrealistic and unbelievable, ultimately mockable. We found CSI and CSI:Someplace shallow and lame. (We also rejected The Sopranos and Sex in the City, and several more recommendations.)

Another patroller showed me Numb3rs one slow night; and over the course of that second season, we found reasons to duck into a viewing room for lunch breaks, making nearby rounds on the commercials. He already had his BS in criminology and was in an academy from which he went federal. I learned a lot from him.

This year (2009-2010) we borrowed disks of previous seasons from the library, rented others from neighborhood stores, and watched a few on TV. Some of the nights we missed, we caught again on computer at www.CBS.com where you can still watch a couple of episodes and lots of scenes. The show was cancelled in April 2010.

After completing a bachelor of science in criminology, I earned a master of arts in social science by constructing a curriculum in global crime. One of my professors for geography said that he liked NUMB3RS because so much of the mathematics involved mapping. Indeed it did.

Numb3rs had technical support from Wolfram Research. If you goto to their website here and enter NUMB3RS in the search box, you will find hundreds of hits, including this blog entry.

They also had technical support from Dr. Gary Lorden who earned his BA at Cal Tech. Understandably, Cal Tech's public relations department has made much of that. See here and here, for example. He co-authored a book, Solving Crime with Mathematics: the Numbers behind Numb3rs, with NPR math reporter Keith Devlin.

The show offers some irony. Dylan Bruno plays agent Colby Granger. He's the jock. "Colby, go down the elevator shaft... Colby, climb the bridge..." Funny thing is Dylan Bruno has a BS in environmental engineering from MIT. So, he is the one guy on the set most likely to actually understand the mathematics. That said, co-star Navi Rawat (grad student and then professor Amita Ramanujan) came up to speed, telling a fan site that she googles the concepts before shooting so that she can speak her lines with deeper meaning.

David Krumholtz (Prof. Charles Eppes) confessed to never liking mathematics in school. His skill is acting. Judd Hirsch plays his father (retired city planner Alan Eppes) and the two worked together as father and son in a Broadway play, "Conversations with My Father." Rob Morrow completes the family as Donald Eppes, the FBI SAIC. The original pilot had two others for the sons, and the show was set in Boston (for MIT). However, the creators (Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, also writers and producers), were tasked with producing a new pilot set in LA with new actors.

Of the supporting actors, Diana Farr (agent Megan Reeves) does the best job of actually acting like an FBI agent. She got some training acting as a fireman in the show "Rescue Me." She confessed that that role was physically demanding and the new desk assignment was more to her liking. Rob Morrow also carries his role well. I had criminology classes where there was a guy who looked like that. He's a "type" and it works well for the show.

All in all, Numb3rs far surpasses the other shows that revolve around science in the solution of crimes.

For all of that, television writing is what it is: a shooting schedule; a production run. Not every show evidences all of the virtues. Over time, cast members came and went. Diana Farr had a baby. Peter McNicol (physicist Dr. Larry Fleinnhardt) worked on "24." The new girls were exotic and interesting, but not compelling. Sophina Brown did well enough as the tough former LAPD Nikki Betancourt now learning to be an FBI agent.

Lastly, watching the disks, we can stop and review the math. One episode was "Black Swan" based on Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book by that name, which I am reading now.

Edited by Hermes
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Just a quick follow-up.

The working producers were Ridley and Tony Scott.

This blog is from Keith Devlin of the Mathematics Association of America. The first cases were based on real events involving forensic mathematicians.

This blog is from the mathematics department of Northeastern University where Prof. Mark Bridger tracked each episode with comments, praises and criticisms. (Prof. Bridger is a progressive whose anti-businsess bias was taken out on Wolfram Research... especially after Bridger and his wife lost their contract as consultant for the show... nonetheless interesting, insightful and informative.)

The www.numb3rs.org fan website is less interesting and fell off before the show ended, but if you are a "fish" for the show, you might find some pearls here. (I did not not.)

This Cornell University Math Department site also commented with additional material on the mathematics of the first five seasons.

These endorsements far surpass anything found for other "CSI" type shows. Numb3rs had reality.

While the show had its share of chases -- which Professor Bridger bemoaned, and not without some justification -- and no shortage of physical danger to the heroes -- overall the show worked on intellect, not firepower and generally, our viewpoint characters, the mathematicians Charlie Eppes and Amita Ramanujan -- were Newtonian forces, acting at a distance, via their ponderous mentalities.

Edited by Hermes
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