Mathemedia, n. — A compendium, from Mathematica and its followers, of math-related books, films, plays, songs, art, essays, and articles prominently featuring mathematics.

We update this list fairly regularly, so if you have a work in mind you think belongs here, check out the submission guidelines at the end of the list and then let us know.


MATHEMATICA PICKS

Books

  • A Beautiful Mind — Nasar (1998)
  • Flatland — Abbott (1884)
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach — Hofstadter (1979)
Flatland has Martin Sheen in it as a grandfather triangle. How can anyone resist?

Movies

  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  • Flatland: The Movie (2007)
  • Good Will Hunting (1997)
  • Pi (1998)
  • Traveling Salesman (2012) — see review below

FOLLOWER SUBMISSIONS

Books

  • An Abundance of Katherines — John Green (2006) | recommended by justdoabackflip
  • A Certain Ambiguity — Suri and Singh Bal (2007) | recommended by n-o-s-t-r-a-d-a-m-u-s
    “This, although seemingly genuine recollection, fictional reading is riveting. It follows the travels of a character named Ravi who has traveled to the U.S. to attend Stanford. He finds himself taking a class on infinity. During his time in America he stumbles upon a reading that his mathematician Grandfather was convicted in the U.S. for making “impious” arguments of logic. 10/10!”
  • Duel at Dawn: Heroes, Martyrs, and the Rise of Modern Mathematics — Amir Alexander (2010) | recommended by anonymous
    “ Duel at Dawn examines the archetype of ‘the mathematician’ throughout the ages — the title a reference to the author’s favoured fellow, Galois.”
  • Fermat’s Enigma — Simon Singh (1997) | submitted by seanjustice
    ”great (for those who may not be mathematicians but want to understand how one of the worlds greatest puzzles was finally solved!)”
  • Goldman’s Theorem — R.J. Stern (2009) | submitted by iprayforblindness
  • It Must Be Beautiful — Graham Farmelo, ed. (2002) | recommended by lthmath
    “a great book that helped me understand a little more some of the most famous equations and their history. …The equation has come to embody the mystery and terror of modern science. It Must Be Beautiful is a wide-ranging collection of writings that lift the lid on some of the most influential — and notorious — equations of all time. This book brings together gifted scientists and writers, including Nobel Prize winners, to interpret the scientific work of the 20th century and place it in historical perspective. Each essay presents the essence of an equation, explains why it is fundamental, defines its scope and limitations, and finally states its importance in the wider intellectual and popular culture.”
  • Love and Math — Edward Frenkel (2013) | submitted by seanjustice
    “An awesome book that’s math related and geared towards a general audience”
  • Loving and Hating Mathematics — Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner (2010) | submitted by bookofrevelation
    “An amazing and readable history of some of the more colorful characters in the world of mathematics–partnerships and prodigies, how it helps some through hard times and drives others to madness. Also includes great sections on culture and gender and mathematics, and even a little on how it’s taught today. Most of it won’t go over the head of anyone with a solid foundation in math.”
  • The Man Who Loved Only Numbers — Paul Hoffman (1998) | recommended by rbmmylife
    “[This book] is about Paul Erdos’s love of math and his contributions to the study, and the many other mathematicians he worked with and past mathematicians whose work he built on. It was written in such a way anyone can read it, and explains the math (many important discoveries) in a pretty relatable way. I learned quite a few things. The writing is really good as well.”
  • A Mathematician’s Lament — Paul Lockhart (2009) | recommended by startouched
    “possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of writing on what mathematics means to the world and how it’s taught in schools.”
  • Mathematics: the Loss of Certainty — Morris Kline (1980) | recommended by teamorestes
    “I read [this book] my junior year of high school and was so captivated by it that I choose to become a math major at university. It covers all of the major disputes through out mathematics history and is wonderfully understandable with only a rudimentary understanding of algebra.”
  • The Number Devil — Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1997) | recocommended by anonymous
    “A book actually aimed at children, and so uses some unusual terminology (iirc roots get called rutabagas at one point) but demonstrates some neat mathematical concepts like Pascal’s Triangle.”

Plays

  • Arcadia — Tom Stoppard (1993) | recommended by sometheoryofsampling | available in book form
    “ Non-linear dynamics and chaos theory. Play features an early 19th century female mathematician as a character.”
  • Proof (2000) | recommended by anonymous | also a film (2005)
    From IMDB: “The daughter of a brilliant but mentally disturbed mathematician, recently deceased, tries to come to grips with her possible inheritance: his insanity. Complicating matters are one of her father’s ex-students who wants to search through his papers and her estranged sister who shows up to help settle his affairs.”

Movies

  • Travelling Salesman (2012) | recommended by poemsandequations
    “If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely one of the better films out there involving mathematics or mathematicians, if not the best, A Beautiful Mind notwithstanding. This is one of the great intellectual thrillers. It’s almost like the Julian Assange response to the threat of cyberwarfare, and there’s certainly a lot of politically-motivated drama, but if you look past it, you can see some wonderful insights into how mathematics works.”
  • Fermat’s Room (2007) | recommended by ishouldbeincharge
    “ Four mathematicians are invited to an event that turns life-threatening unless they can solve mathematical puzzles. It keeps my high school students enthralled at the very end of the school year!”

Courses

  • History of Maths — Nick Bingham (2013) | recommended by herbalistic
    ”my mathematical (and, indeed, general) mentor’s History of Maths course is a beautiful, concise and complete introduction to the subject”

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

We’re looking for your favorite books, movies, songs, art, essays, and articles (etc.) that prominently feature mathematics or mathematicians. Send them our way and we’ll add them to the list above. A few ground rules:

  1. We prefer that material be accessible to anyone with a love of mathematics and access to Wikipedia — assuming, at most, a typical high school education in math.
  2. In general, we’re looking for stories about mathematics — told either from the inside or outside. Fiction is great; non-fiction is great too, as long as it’s accessible. There are great lists out there of seminal papers and great textbooks and phenomenal websites — this is not one of them.
  3. If you have the time, please include a short description of the work in question. This will help anyone browsing the list figure out what’s most interesting and appealing to them. If you’re interested in providing a longer description or review, let us know so we can set that up!
  4. If the material is legally available on the Internet (e.g., an article or music video), feel free to include a link!

Finally, a quick note to the interested reader:

Mathemedia used to be a separate page on our blog. We’ve transferred the list here, to Mathematica Stories on Medium, for three reasons:

  1. We want to have enough space for long-form reviews of mathematics media. This will hopefully avoid clutter on the blog and in the list itself.
  2. On Medium, content will hopefully be more easily accessible to, and more easily found by, a wider audience.
  3. Mathematica Stories is a collection of stories about mathematics and mathematicians — math as represented in media fits right in!