Mathsy people try very hard to like mathematics documentaries. They will frequently claim that they like them. But they don’t, really, not often, not much. For non-maths people it is much simpler: they don’t like maths documentaries and, if not so intimidated as to hold their tongues, they are generally happy to say so.
The sad reality is that most mathematics documentaries are bad. They are bad art, and they make for bad education.* This was brought to mind by a new Netflix documentary, A Trip to Infinity, and by a recent invitation. The invitation I’ll get to later. The documentary is bad.
Yes, the the title is clickbait, but it is not our clickbait. It’s the title of an interesting and semi-provocative 1981 article by Paul Halmos. Halmos’s article came to mind after a brief conversation recently, about applied mathematics in Australia. As with pretty much everything Halmos wrote, it seemed worth sharing.* Continue reading “Applied Mathematics is Bad Mathematics”→