Film pro­ducer talks maths

Manawatu Standard - - News - KARO­LINE TUCKEY

A pro­ducer be­hind a star-stud­ded film about one of the 20th cen­tury’s great­est thinkers will visit Palmer­ston North to talk maths and movies.

Ac­tors Jeremy Irons, Stephen Fry, and Dev Pa­tel (Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire) starred in 2015

Bri­tish film The Man Who Knew

In­fin­ity, which tells the true story of an In­dian man who con­quered poverty and racism early last cen­tury to be­come one of the most im­por­tant fig­ures in maths.

Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor of maths

Ken Ono was an as­so­ci­ate pro­ducer and will give a free pub­lic lec­ture on Mon­day about the film and Srini­vasa Ra­manu­jan’s life and work.

His role as as­so­ci­ate pro­ducer has taken him to the red-car­pet pre­miere, seen him mix­ing with the fa­mous cast and work­ing on the script, and he later pre­sented the film and a talk about sci­ence ed­u­ca­tion at the White House.

It has also given him the op­por­tu­nity to share what he thinks is a tale the world should know.

Ra­manu­jan was like an Einstein or New­ton for physics. He pro­gressed maths in leaps and bounds, and new dis­cov­er­ies are still be­ing made from his writ­ings, Ono said.

Cell phones, satel­lites and so­phis­ti­cated in­for­ma­tion net­works make use of his sums. Much of Ono’s own work has been based on Ra­manu­jan’s ideas. ‘‘The note­books he left be­hind have con­tin­ued to power re­search for the last 100 years.’’

Ra­manu­jan was born in In­dia in 1887. He flunked univer­sity, partly be­cause he was so dis­tracted by ex­plor­ing his own math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions in­stead of sit­ting as­sess­ments.

He faced poverty and ill­ness, but his work even­tu­ally reached the hands of a Cam­bridge pro­fes­sor who fought racism to per­suade the univer­sity to en­rol Ra­manu­jan, and to have his work pub­lished be­fore his early death.

The story has in­spired Ono and oth­ers to pro­mote the ben­e­fits of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tion and re­search for so­ci­ety. ‘‘His story mat­ters be­cause he is an ex­am­ple of a per­son who could have never been dis­cov­ered... [and it] is im­por­tant be­cause it rep­re­sents an ex­am­ple of what can be achieved when peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures work to­gether to tackle dif­fi­cult chal­lenges,’’ Ono said.

He will speak at the maths depart­ment at Massey Univer­sity, then give a free pub­lic lec­ture on Mon­day at 7pm, at the Palmer­ston North Girls’ High School li­brary.

Jeremy Irons and Dev Pa­tel star in The Man Who Knew In­fin­ity. The film was pro­duced Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor Ken Ono, who will visit Palmer­ston North next week.

Ken Ono

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