Latest tweets

  • Loading tweets...

CNN Light Years Guest Post: Did ‘Avengers’ really own box office records?

Over at CNN this month, I talk about the phenomenal success of Marvel’s The Avengers in its stampede over old box office records. But how much stock should we put in these records? Is this blockbuster really the top dog in the record books? Here’s a sneak preview of the article:

When the Avengers assemble, the world opens its collective wallet. In just under three weeks since its international opening, “Marvel’s The Avengers” has earned more than $1 billion worldwide. In America, it blew through the $200 million mark over opening weekend alone, and now holds the title of best three-day opening in film history. Or does it?

While dollar signs fuel the engine of Hollywood movie production, they are not necessarily the most objective measure of a film’s success. Most importantly, the dollar is not a static unit of measurement like the meter; as a result of inflation, a . . . → Read More: CNN Light Years Guest Post: Did ‘Avengers’ really own box office records?

The Probability Games

Though we are still a few months away from the start of the summer blockbuster season, the scuttlebutt is that The Hunger Games, opening this weekend, is expected to do huge business (and by huge, I mean upwards of $100 million). Based on the 2008 Suzanne Collins book of the same name, this property is the hottest new thing in the realm of young adult fiction, and in this post-Harry Potter, nearly-post-Twilight era of cinema history, the timing could not be better for movie executives. The book is the first of a trilogy, so whether you like it or not, these films will be with us for the next few years.

Cover image for the book.

If you have not read the book, or have no idea what I’m talking about in general, a trailer for the film can be found here (sorry, embedding has been disabled for the . . . → Read More: The Probability Games

And the Award for Best Voting System Goes to…

Last year, the Center for Election Science wrote up a quick blog post on the Oscars to motivate a discussion of voting reform. Since 2009, the Oscars have used Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) to decide the winner of the prestigious Best Picture award, but there is growing backlash against this voting system because of a number of strange properties it possesses. For example, the winner of an IRV election may not be the most favored candidate among the voters; for another strange example, it can sometimes be to your advantage to rank your preferred candidate last instead of first. Here’s a video explaining some of these weird features:

Instead of using IRV, a strong argument could be made for using Score voting (also known as Range voting). I’ve discussed these voting systems before (see here for a discussion of the 2010 Oakland mayoral race, for example), so . . . → Read More: And the Award for Best Voting System Goes to…

Moneyball

This weekend, mathematics played a supporting role to Brad Pitt in one of fall’s first critical darlings, Moneyball. Based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, the film profiles the Oakland A’s during their 2002 bid for World Series glory. What allegedly separates their story from the story of other teams during that season is the way General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, deals with the budget constraints imposed on him by the team’s owners.

With a payroll roughly a third the size of the Yankees’, Beane understood that the playing field was not a level one from an economic standpoint. What’s more, at the end of the 2001 season, three of the A’s star players left Oakland for bigger paychecks. To fill the void, the film (and book) show how Beane took a more analytic approach, and used statistical analysis . . . → Read More: Moneyball

MTV/Oscar Showdown

For many of us, summer is thought of as the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For folks of a younger generation, though, trendier bookends are provided by two MTV Award shows: The Movie Awards at the beginning of the summer, and the Video Music Awards at the end. Continuing this noble tradition, the 20th iteration of the MTV Movie Awards was broadcast this weekend. If you missed it, don’t worry; I’m sure it will be shown another 300,000 or so times before the summer is out.

As a shining beacon of what is hip, MTV has a responsibility during its movie awards to highlight the most popular films of the year. This is in stark contrast to the priorities of higher brow award shows such as the Oscars, for which artistic achievement is placed on the highest pedestal. This is not to say that these two goals need . . . → Read More: MTV/Oscar Showdown

Rites of Love and Math…

…and boinking. This, perhaps, is what I would’ve named the independent film Rites of Love and Math in order to diffuse some of the pomp.

For those of you who have not heard, Rites of Love and Math is an independent film starring a mathematician, and is inspired by the 1966 Japanese short film Yukoku (which can be seen in its entirety here; the standard Wikipedia synopsis is here). This Japanese film depicts an army lieutenant who knows he will be ordered to execute his friends after a failed coup d’état; in order to avoid this fate, he and his wife commit ritual suicide together, after making sweet love one final time.

If you ask how something could be inspired both by this film and mathematics, Rites of Love and Math is your answer. This mathematical interpretation, which premiered at the Berkeley Film and Video Festival late last year, replaces . . . → Read More: Rites of Love and Math…

Watch Out for The Secret Number

I would like to offer my somewhat reserved congratulations to the helmers of the upcoming film project titled The Secret Number, whose Kickstarter project ended today having exceeded its fundraising goal of $10,000 (I’ll also point out that this isn’t the first time Kickstarter has made an appearance on this blog). The film, a senior thesis for director Colin Levy, is based on a short story of the same name, and is the reason behind my inclusion of the word “reserved” in the sentence above. By way of introduction, please take a look at the filmmakers’ fundraising video:

As you can see, the story centers around a mathematician who claims to have discovered an integer between 3 and 4. Forgetting the mathematical particulars for a moment, the source material worries me, mostly because the mathematician featured in the story has been hospitalized following a nervous breakdown brought . . . → Read More: Watch Out for The Secret Number

A Sufficient Mathematical Background

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an op-ed written by G. V. Ramanathan, emeritus Professor in mathematics, statistics, and computer science, entitled “How much math do we really need?” As the title suggests, Ramanathan uses his space in the paper to argue against the grain of conventional wisdom when it comes to mathematics education; his point is that American students are actually receiving too MUCH math, rather than not enough. It’s an appealing thesis, especially for those looking for an excuse to embrace their own math phobia, but ultimately I find it to be less than responsible.

Consider, for example, the following passage:

How much math do you really need in everyday life? Ask yourself that — and also the next 10 people you meet, say, your plumber, your lawyer, your grocer, your mechanic, your physician or even a math teacher.

Unlike literature, history, politics and music, . . . → Read More: A Sufficient Mathematical Background