The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS

By Sean Carroll | February 2, 2009 11:14 am

If you’re like me, all too often while relaxing and watching a good procedural drama on TV you find yourself wondering, “How did they solve that differential equation so quickly?” That’s why we need more hit prime-time TV shows with web pages that explain the mathematical content underpinning each episode.

As far as I know, the only show that rises to this challenge is NUMB3RS, the CBS drama featuring Charlie Epps, a math professor at a suspiciously Caltech-esque university who teams up with his FBI-agent brother to solve crimes. The shows creators, Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, had a goal from the beginning of creating an entertaining hour of television that would involve science in an intimate way. (I suppose math is almost as good.) As part of the effort, they’ve partnered with Wolfram Research to follow each episode with a web page delving into the various mathematical concepts that were discussed, including Mathematica notebooks to illustrate the various ideas:

The Math Behind NUMB3RS

Episode 11 this year was entitled “The Arrow of Time.” Here’s the opening:

You can see the full episode here; the math page is here. This stuff would make a great topic for a book.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Entertainment, Mathematics

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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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