Fermat's Last Theorem in fiction

The problem in number theory known as "Fermat's Last Theorem" has repeatedly received attention in fiction and popular culture.

Television

• In the Doctor Who episode "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor transmits a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by typing it in just a few seconds on a laptop, to prove his genius to a collection of world leaders discussing the latest threat to the human race.[1]
• "The Royale", an episode (first aired 27 March 1989) of Star Trek: The Next Generation, begins with Picard attempting to solve the puzzle in his ready room; he remarks to Riker that the theorem had remained unproven for 800 years.[2] The captain ends the episode with the line "Like Fermat's theorem, it is a puzzle we may never solve." Wiles' proof was released five years after the episode aired.[3] The theorem was again mentioned in a subsequent Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode called "Facets" in June 1995,[4] in which Jadzia Dax comments that one of her previous hosts, Tobin Dax, had "the most original approach to the proof since Wiles over 300 years ago."
• A sum, proved impossible by the theorem, appears in an episode of The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror VI".[5] In the three-dimensional world in "Homer3", the equation ${\displaystyle 1782^{12}+1841^{12}=1922^{12}}$ is visible, just as the dimension begins to collapse. The joke is that the twelfth root of the sum does evaluate to 1922 due to rounding errors when entered into most handheld calculators; the left hand side is odd, while ${\displaystyle 1922^{12}}$ is even, so the equality cannot hold. (The twelfth root of the left-hand side is not 1922, but approximately 1921.99999996.) A second "counterexample" appeared in a later episode, "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace": ${\displaystyle 3987^{12}+4365^{12}=4472^{12}}$. These agree to 10 of 44 decimal digits, but simple divisibility rules show 3987 and 4365 are multiples of 3 so that a sum of their powers is also. The same rule reveals that 4472 is not divisible by 3, so that this "equation" cannot hold either.

Theater

• In Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia, Septimus Hodge poses the problem of proving Fermat's Last Theorem to the precocious Thomasina Coverly (who is perhaps a mathematical prodigy), in an attempt to keep her busy. Thomasina responds that Fermat had no proof and claimed otherwise in order to torment later generations.[6] Shortly after Arcadia opened in London, Andrew Wiles announced his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, a coincidence of timing that resulted in news stories about the proof quoting Stoppard.[7]
• Fermat's Last Tango is a stage musical by Joanne Sydney Lessner and Joshua Rosenblum.[8] Protagonist "Daniel Keane" is a fictionalized Andrew Wiles.[9] The characters include Fermat, Pythagoras, Euclid, Newton, and Gauss, the singing, dancing mathematicians of "the aftermath".

Movies

• Fermat's equation also appears in the movie Bedazzled with Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser. Hurley plays the devil who, in one of her many forms, appears as a school teacher who assigns Fermat's Last Theorem as a homework problem.[4]

References

1. ^ Singh, Simon (2014-10-17). "Homer's Last Theorem". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
2. ^ Moseman, Andrew (2017-09-01). "Here's a Fun Math Goof in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
3. ^ Kevin Knudson (20 August 2015). "The Math Of Star Trek: How Trying To Solve Fermat's Last Theorem Revolutionized Mathematics". Forbes.
4. ^ a b Garmon, Jay. "Geek Trivia: The math behind the myth". TechRepublic. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
5. ^ Singh, Simon (2013). The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets. London. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-1-4088-3530-2.
6. ^ Guaspari, David (1996). "Stoppard's Arcadia". The Antioch Review. 54 (2): 222–238. doi:10.2307/4613314.
7. ^ Jackson, Allyn (1995). "Love and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Tom Stoppard's Arcadia" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 42 (11): 1284–1287.
8. ^ "Math Plus Music Equals Fermat's Last Tango, a World Preem, Opening Dec. 6". Playbill. 2000-12-06. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
9. ^ Emmer, Michele (December 2003). "Fermat's last tango, a musical". The Mathematical Intelligencer. 25 (1): 77–78. doi:10.1007/bf02985645. ISSN 0343-6993.
10. ^ Kasman, Alex (January 2003). "Mathematics in Fiction: An Interdisciplinary Course". PRIMUS. 13 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1080/10511970308984042. ISSN 1051-1970.
11. ^ "Devilish Short Story | Simon Singh". simonsingh.net. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
12. ^ Gray, Mary W. (June 2007). "The Oxford Murders". The Mathematical Intelligencer. 29 (3): 77–78. doi:10.1007/bf02985700. ISSN 0343-6993.
13. ^ Berry, Michael (2008-08-10). "Clarke and Pohl's 'The Last Theorem'". SFGate. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
14. ^ Fraser, Anne. "LibGuides: Mathematics: Maths Fiction". Assumption College. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
15. ^ Kasman, Alex. "MathFiction: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Stieg Larsson)". College of Charleston. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
16. ^
17. ^ Gowers, Timothy (2009-12-20). "Wiles Meets his Match". Gowers's Weblog. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
18. ^ Kasman, Alex. "MathFiction: The Flight of the Dragonfly (aka Rocheworld) (Robert L. Forward)". College of Charleston. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
19. ^ Schaaf, William L. (1963). Recreational Mathematics: A Guide to the Literature (third ed.). National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
20. ^ "Volume 11, Number 2, 1996 (Newsletter 32)". British Society for the History of Mathematics Newsletter. 11 (2): 1–81. 1996. doi:10.1080/09629419608000021. ISSN 0962-9416.
21. ^ "The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe: Podcast #18". The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. 2005-11-02. Retrieved 2018-09-11.