One Divided by Zero Equals Art (A Disappearing Number)
Consider that the number 1,729 is beautiful. Whether you like math or not, bear with me.
Nine times nine times nine equals 729. Ten times 10 times 10 equals 1,000. That is, the cube of nine plus the cube of 10 equals 1,729.
One times one times one equals one. (This truth alone is enough to talk about math as art.) Twelve times 12 times 12 equals 1,728. That is, the cube of one plus the cube of 12 also equals 1,729.
The smallest number that can be expressed by the sum of two different pairs of cubes is 1,729. What, on Earth, is beautiful about this? Well, there are people on Earth who feel an emotional transcendence knowing that such a thing is so. There's something beautifully real about such things to such people.
One such person was Srinivasa Ramanujan, a most brilliant and unlikely mathematician who lived 100 years ago. Another such person is a college math instructor in the present day. She's a rather mundane sort of appreciator but a passionate companion for a man who transcends himself by loving her.
The play, “A Disappearing Number,” intertwines a biography of Ramanujan with a fictional couple in a fascinating staging of connectivity and continuity. The play wisely makes fun of math, revering it at the same time. It wondrously suggests that the math in it is as real as an infinity of infinities. It ingeniously communicates that lives are more difficult to figure than math.
On Saturday, Oct. 23, at 10 a.m. this second offering of the National Theatre Live series at Sierra Cinemas in Grass Valley demonstrates why this live-theater-at-the-movies is such an exciting concept.
Here's a tip for all who want to challenge themselves with a play that tangles with creative ravellings of ideas and the humans who wrestle with them: Let the humor and love in “A Disappearing Number” carry you, whether it computes entirely or not.