Monday, December 03, 2007

The League of eCcentric Mathematicians

Whilst googling for pictures (for my first ever lecture), I came across something rather marvellous and... cool! Children of all ages, I present you with "The League of eCcentric Mathematicians"! (For those who haven't watched "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", this may be not seem 'cool', but do read on).

The following is a short play by Albert O'Connor and Craig Sloss. Its debut performance was on July 17, 2003, at the PMAMC&OC's Short Attention Span Math Seminars.

Act I

Scene I: In a library, with books on a table.
Enter INDETERMINATE (wearing a mask) with two EXTRAS. They start going through books and scratching stuff out with pens.

INDETERMINATE (loudly and menacingly): Faster, faster! Erase all references to it!
EXTRA 1: Should I erase this Continuum Hypothesis?
INDETERMINATE: No, you fool! That's independent from it!
EXTRA 2: How about this "Zorn's Lemma?"
INDETERMINATE: Yes, destroy all that is equivalent to it!
(Newspapers are displayed with troubling headlines.)

Scene II: Chamber of the Royal Society.
M is already in the room, with no mask. Enter HILBERT

M (snobby British style): Mister Hilbert, you have been recruited by Her Majesty's Royal Society to undertake a mission of vital importance to the Empire. We want you to lead a team of elite individuals.
HILBERT: You mean like some kind of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
M: More like a League of eCcentric Mathematicians. Let me introduce your team to you. First, we have Joseph Fourier.
FOURIER: Greetings, monsieur.
M: Mister Fourier is well known for his research into (makes quoting signs) "transforms."
FOURIER: (Holding up a graph of a Fourier-transformed signal) Yes, although it is an evil I am reluctant to unleash upon the world.
M: Next, let me introduce the token female member of your team, Emmy Noether.
NOETHER: Hello. Anyone up for a tacky romantic subplot?
M: Third, we have Pierre-Simon Laplace.
LAPLACE: (Smoothly shifty) Yes, I am certainly looking forward to working with this fine group of eccentric mathematicians -- even those who believe that continuous functions can converge to discontinuous ones.
FOURIER (turning sharply to LAPLACE) Well, at least I wrote those papers myself.
M: Rounding out your team, we introduce some young blood: Evariste Galois.
GALOIS: Hello.
M: Mister Galois is an expert in the use of duelling pistols. (Throws him a pistol. Galois fumbles with it and drops it.)
HILBERT: Very well. (Stands at front of stage in a triumphant pose.) We shall form the League of eCcentric Mathematicians!
M: As for your mission: (Hilbert sits at the table, and M drops a dossier in front of him.) A mysterious person known only as the "Indeterminate" has been leading attacks on libraries across Europe, attempting to remove all references to the Axiom of Choice. We believe that he is doing this in order to eliminate most of what is known about mathematics, in order that he may secure research grants to reprove the results.
(General gasps of shock from the League)
NOETHER: But how shall we know that rings contain maximal ideals?
FOURIER: Or that vector spaces have bases?
HILBERT: Never mind that, what about maximal orthonormal sets? My entire Hilbert Space theory would fall apart! He MUST be bounded away from society!
M: We believe that he is next planning to attack the library at the University of Königsberg.
HILBERT: Good god! My hometown!
GALOIS: Hey, what about your dead son?
HILBERT: Well, maybe after ten minutes of character development you can replace him.
LAPLACE: Hey, Emmy, want to go have a drink before we go to the library? We can spend some time talking about your theorems?
NOETHER: I'm not much of a drinker, but maybe we could do some integration...
M: Anyways, getting back on track, go save the library.

Scene III: University of Königsberg Library. Table with books on it.
Enter INDETERMINATE and EXTRAS, one of whom has a pistol. They pick up books and prepare to erase them. Enter HILBERT, GALOIS, NOETHER, LAPLACE, FOURIER. GALOIS has a pistol in his belt.

HILBERT: We haven't met. I believe introductions are in order.
INDETERMINATE: Very well. I am the Indeterminate, and you are the League of eCcentric Mathematicians. Introductions accomplished.
FOURIER: Wait, how did you know who we were?
GALOIS: We're here to stop your mad plans! No one can deny the Axiom of Choice! Choice is a fundamental right of man! Vive la revolution!

(Runs up to the extra with a pistol, then struggles to remove the pistol from his belt. EXTRA shoots him. Galois grabs his shoulder and falls to the ground.) Oww.... guns hurt....
HILBERT runs up to INDETERMINATE and starts to fight. During the course of their fighting, they are separated from the rest of the group. FOURIER fights one of the extras. NOETHER grabs some of the books and hands them to LAPLACE.

NOETHER: Here, take these to Africa, where they will be safe.

Exit LAPLACE with books. NOETHER fights the other EXTRA. FOURIER and NOETHER are triumphant over the EXTRAS. Meanwhile, fighting continues between HILBERT and INDETERMINATE, during the course of which INDETERMINATE's mask comes off, revealing that he is in fact M.

HILBERT: M! It's you!

M escapes, while deliberately dropping envelope, which HILBERT picks up. HILBERT regroups with NOETHER, FOURIER and GALOIS (who is still writhing in pain on the ground).

HILBERT: The indeterminate is M!

Act II

Scene I: Hilbert's place.

HILBERT: Welcome to my space... er, I mean my house.
FOURIER: What are we going to do now? Are we still a league?
GALOIS: It doesn't matter that M betrayed us. (Stands at the front of the stage in a triumpant pose) We're still the League of eCcentric Mathematicians!
HILBERT: So how's that character development coming along?
GALOIS: Not too bad. (Hugs HILBERT.)
HILBERT: Anyway, M dropped this as he was escaping. (Produces envelope, and opens it. The League gathers around it.)
M (Voiceover): Theorem: There exists an evil plan to get M and Laplace lots and lots of money and mathematical fame.
Proof: Eliminate the axiom of choice so that M can reprove all of mathematics. Form the League of eCcentric Mathematicians to give Laplace an opportunity to steal the theorems of Fourier, Noether and Galois, in order to prove them in his own name.
NOETHER: That b****** Lapalce! I can't believe I integrated with him!
GALOIS: (Looking in the envelope) Hey, wait, there's something else in here!
HILBERT: It's an epsilon!
NOETHER: I don't see anything
FOURIER: It's there; it's just so small! But it's greater than zero! I can use this to approximate the location of M and Laplace. (Does some calculations.) I've got it! They're in the Nile Delta!
HILBERT: Off to Egypt we go!
GALOIS: What luck that you were able to use that epsilon to find a delta!

Scene II: M's fortress in the Nile Delta

HILBERT: Okay, now that we're in the Nile Delta, we should have a plan before we do anything. We have to capture M, capture Laplace and rescue the library books.
NOETHER: I have to go after Laplace in order to wrap up the romantic subplot... and obviously I have to go alone.
GALOIS: Clearly I have to go wherever Hilbert goes so that I can symbolically replace his dead son.
HILBERT: Well, clearly I'll be going after M, because I'm the main hero and he's the main villain. So I guess you're with me.
FOURIER: Merde. I guess that means I'm stuck going after the books.
HILBERT: Okay, let's go.

Scene III: Library in M's fortress.
EXTRAS are systematically going through books and erasing stuff. Enter FOURIER

FOURIER: Stop that!
EXTRA 1: What are you going to do to stop us?
FOURIER: Something I swore I'd never do. I'll have to release the brooding evil within me. Lose your continuity as I transform you into a discrete object! (Makes some kind of hand-waving motions at one of the extras, who screams and then disappears.)
EXTRA 2: Oh my god! Fourier transformed him! (Runs away)
FOURIER grabs books and exits.

Scene IV: Laplace's Room. LAPLACE is sitting on a chair.

LAPLACE: I see you couldn't resist me. Here for some more integration?
NOETHER: Hardly. I'm sticking to algebra from now on.
LAPLACE: (Circling her in a seductive manner.) Well, then what are you here for?
NOETHER: For this! (Holds up papers.) I've got your papers! Ones YOU actually wrote!
LAPLACE: No! Where did you find those? Give those to me!
NOETHER: Take this! (Rips up one of the papers. LAPLACE flinches.) And this! (Rips another. LAPLACE convulses.)
LAPLACE: Stop that! Ahhh! (NOETHER continues to rip up papers until LAPLACE dies.)

Scene V M's Room
M is standing in his room with two extras behind him.

M: Mister Hilbert... I thought you'd make it here. But you can't stop me. Only a mathematician of my calibre could have come up with a plan like this.
HILBERT: Wait a second... "M," as in "M-Test?" I know who you are! You're Professor Karl Weierstrass! The Napoleon of Mathematics!
WEIERSTRASS: Yes, you've figured it out. But there's nothing you'll be able to do about it!

M motions for the extras to attack, and they advance towards HILBERT and GALOIS.

HILBERT: Wait! Can you give two tetrahedra which cannot be decomposed into congruent tetrahedra directly or by adjoining congruent tetrahedra?

(EXTRAS go into pensive poses, and start muttering to themselves about possible solutions to the problem. While they are occupied with this, HILBERT and GALOIS kick their asses.)

WEIERSTRASS: You'll never get out of here alive! (Pulls a gun on HILBERT. GALOIS jumps in front of him and pulls his gun. GALOIS shoots at WEIERSTRASS, but nothing happens.)

GALOIS: Crap! Forgot the ammo! (WEIERSTRASS shoots GALOIS who falls to the ground, with HILBERT catching him.)
HILBERT: You b******! Does there exist a universal algorithm for solving Diophantine equations?

(WEIERTRASS starts thinking about it. Meanwhile, HILBERT takes GALOIS' gun, fills it with ammo, and shoots WEIERSTRASS.)

Scene VI: Back in Hilbert's Space

HILBERT: Well, it looks like we were victorious.
GALOIS: Luckily, you only wounded Weierstrass.
NOETHER: Yes, he will make a good grad student for you.

WEIERSTRASS: Professor Hilbert, I just got back from that conference you didn't want to go to.
HILBERT: Okay, go get me some coffee.
WEIERSTRASS: Yes, sir. (Exits)
HILBERT: The world is safe once more now that the Axiom of Choice has been secured.
FOURIER: But what of future problems in mathematics?
HILBERT: The... (pauses, then goes to the front of the stage and poses heroically) The League of eCcentric Mathematicians shall be there to solve them.


Truly magnificent, and I am finding it really hard to stop myself from laughing in this computer room! That is just fantastic. GREAT!

*composes self and exits blog to do some.... no, not Fourier transforms, but differentiation!*


Jean-Noël said...

That was totally brilliant :D

Беанс said...

Yep - totally brilliant! Everytime I read it (which is quite often I must confess), I can't stop laughing!

"Welcome to my space...erm my house."

The bit about the epsilons is also great. :D

GALOIS: (Looking in the envelope) Hey, wait, there's something else in here!
HILBERT: It's an epsilon!
NOETHER: I don't see anything
FOURIER: It's there; it's just so small! But it's greater than zero! I can use this to approximate the location of M and Laplace. (Does some calculations.) I've got it! They're in the Nile Delta!
HILBERT: Off to Egypt we go!
GALOIS: What luck that you were able to use that epsilon to find a delta!

egm said...

Haven't been around for ages, and when I show up, I see this masterpiece. Simply fabulous!

Беанс said...

Hi egm,

Yes - it has been quite a while, and I am glad that you agree! :D I wouldn't mind them having a go at altering other movie scripts too!