Fermats Room

When Fermats last theorem was unequivocally proven back in the nineties it was said that it represented the mathematical equivalent of “splitting the atom or finding the structure of D.N.A” (John Coates), an amazing achievement, the result of literally hundreds of years worth of thinking. What it didn’t do however, unlike those other scientific endeavours the splitting of the atom and research into D.N.A, was make the slightest bit of difference to … well…anything at all really. This is what Fermats room is all about. Never mind that Fermats last and most famous theorem was largely concerned with the triangle, here a group of four gifted mathematical minds gather in a resolutely cuboid room (Pythagoras` room doesn’t have the same ring to it I guess) only to find themselves trapped, the room grows smaller each time they fail to answer maths riddles. Its pretty well shot this film, impressively most of the action takes place in the single room and manages to do so without becoming boring, and the film is too concerned with other things to feel too much like the people in it are really being tortured. Its not scary because that isn’t really the point, what I think is important is that the only way to make the detached obscurity of the math riddles have real world consequences is to attach solving them to the movement, or stoppage of, giant hydrolic presses of bone crushing strength. Mathematics is in some ways unique in that whilst without it we undoubtedly wouldn’t have some of the most amazing technology we have today it is the ivory tower thinkers who are most celebrated. Should I as an academic celebrate the successes of my peers? Of course. Should I, as a human, care about those successes? Its a huge philosophical question, this film though resolutely says you have bigger things to worry about, bigger in fact than giant hydrolic ram shrinking rooms, and I’m largely inclined to agree.

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