We all use math every day; to predict weather, to tell time, to handle money. Math is more than formulas or equations; it’s logic, it’s rationality, it’s using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know. Introduction to each episode said by Charlie Epps
I positively loved the TV series Numb3rs. I say loved because the series ran from 2005 to 2010 and is now sadly over. The premise of the show was that mathematics can be used to solve crime. The lead characters were brothers Charlie (a math genius and professor) and Don (Lead FBI agent) Epps who worked together to solve crime using both of their skills.
I have just finished re-watching all 6 seasons and was struck by how often they used game theory to find the villain in the piece. One instance was particularly funny when Charlie shows the payoffs of a prisoner’s dilemma game to a group of suspects because he suspected that they don’t really understand the math to play the game correctly. (The traditional version has the suspects separated.) Once the mathematics is made clear, they of course then confess.
Numb3rs was the most popular show on Friday nights for the first 4 seasons with both mathematicians and mathphobes loving it. The mathematicians loved it because the mathematics is correct and interesting. Mathphobes love it because it is easy to become committed to the cast of characters. This show was typical of the new connection between academia and TV series, the most recent of which is the hit series Breaking Bad. For Numb3rs, I regret to say that their number was up.
“Gie me ae spark o’Nature’s fire, That’s a’ the learning I desire.”
~ The First Epistle to J. Lapraik by Robert Burns (1786)
“Do you enjoy makin’ shoes, Mr. Sanderson?”
~ The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis p 206
The Best Laid Plans is a very funny novel that has very little to do with economics. Having said that, the little it does have is bonny.
In the novel, Daniel Addison, the head speech writer for the Liberal leader of the opposition quits politics for deeply personal reasons. He lands on his feet in the English department at the University of Ottawa. However, the timing of his defection couldn’t be worse for the party because it happens just before the Conservatives call a federal election. Out of guilt, he agrees to find a Liberal candidate to run in a solidly Conservative riding which doesn’t have a hope of going Liberal– or even getting a Liberal candidate to run in it for that matter. Daniel agrees to fix this potentially embarrassing problem. His new landlord is the recently widowed Angus McLintock, a 60-year-old engineering prof who agrees to the nomination as part of a horse trade. Daniel will teach the dreaded English for Engineers at Ottawa U in exchange for a nomination which Angus is sure will end in defeat. Needless to say, things go awry and Angus ends up winning.
While in parliament Angus deals with 3 issues of economic importance. They are