Documentary about four of the most brilliant mathematicians of all time, Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing, their genius, their tragic madness and their ultimate suicides.

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David Malone
Roger Penrose
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Documentary about four of the most brilliant mathematicians of all time, Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing, their genius, their tragic madness and their ultimate suicides.

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8 August 2007 (UK)  »

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Outstanding documentary, a model of excellence
22 February 2017 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

I am a physicist by training with a minor in mathematics. I can attest that everything in this documentary is correct history - all four of these men were on the intellectual edge, and the work of each had a profound influence on all intellectual thought in the modern era, practical (Boltzmann, Turing) and theoretical (Cantor, Goedel). The presentation is engaging, the presenters, thoughtful and interested and direct - I sure wish I could determine who they are! The title might be off-putting in the sense that knowledge in itself is neutral - but new knowledge never exists in isolation, and ideas can indeed be dangerous

  • and as we've seen in the XXth century, resistance to them even more
so. The rise of Nazi Germany was nothing less than an effort to impose an artificial new order in place of the old one, which had crumbled. That these new ideas in mathematics were being debated at the same time is no coincidence. This program does an excellent job of linking the most abstract realms of intellectual life with everyday reality. It must also be noted that these new mathematical ideas are in themselves quite apart from the two great new ideas in physics that emerged at the same time, the theory of relativity and the new world of quantum mechanics, and have deeply influenced the interpretation of these ideas subsequently. As the presenters make clear, we are still struggling with the consequences of all these ideas. The best thing to recommend this program is that it shows how viscerally *exiting* is the life of the mind - and how deeply some people pursue it, even at the expense of their own mental health.

-drl


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