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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

P-adic Integers Would Make Better Movie Topic Than Calculus

To the Editor:

In the Oct. 1 issue of The Dartmouth, it was stated that "A group of Dartmouth mathematics professors is spending its federal grant money in a silly." ["Professors hope movies will make math fun"] I do not think that is a "silly" project. In fact I see that as a wise economy. I have gotten so much more out of movies such as The Mechanical Universe that no classroom lecture or book could match. And I bet that The Mechanical Universe cost a lot more than $4 million. Recently The Dartmouth wrote a story about me, ["Sometime-scientist Plutonium says science is 'gobbledygook'," Sept. 25], and the writer did not know the difference between a math 'theorem' and a science 'theory'. We are after all at an educational institution where the job is to teach, and movies or films often are better teaching devices than classroom lectures.

I would not question the wisdom of making math movies, but I would question the wisdom of choosing "Calculus" as the subject. The world is full of calculus textbooks, but not a single p-adic textbook. The world already has dozens of movies and films helping to explain "Calculus," for even in several episodes of The Mechanical Universe is calculus explained. But the world has not one single movie explaining the rich and beautiful theory of Infinite Integers -- the p-adic integers.

No, I do not question the wisdom of making a math movie for I would rather see a math movie than sit in on a math lecture. And I would rather see a p-adic movie than any Hollywood award winners. But I would question the choice of subject of Calculus. Even in PBS, The Learner education film series has movies on Calculus.

And although I realize that making The Mechanical Universe is an expensive project, making 4 math movies on some not-so-well-known-section of mathematics could be as high quality as The Mechanical Universe. If the Dartmouth math professors, changed their mind and instead of doing calculus, did their movie on p-adics, there should be a high demand for these four films. Why? Because few people know what the p-adic integers are. They are very, very important. And instead of being the second thousandth textbook about Calculus or the 700th film on Calculus. Why not make the world's first four films on P-adic Integers?

But this begs the question of whether the Dartmouth Mathematics faculty knows P-adic Integers well enough to make the world's first four films on P-adic. And, as a bonus, perhaps the Dartmouth math faculty will be the first to write a Schaum's type of P-adic Outline for bright High School students and Uni students.

The word "silly" is a poor choice of words, me thinks. And I would hope that The Dartmouth has not contracted a style of writing as displayed by the Dartmouth Review. But the world does not need another movie on Calculus nor another textbook on Calculus, but it surely needs the first Schaum's Outline on P-adic Integers and it surely needs the first movies on P-adic Integers and what beautiful numbers that they are.

I bet that not a single person on the Dartmouth campus except for a few math majors, and very few indeed, even knows what P-adic integers and p-adic numbers are. Most professors on university campuses have never even heard of p-adic integers.

The reason Vietmath is in the title is because of my long four year harangue of Fermat's Last Theorem and the claim that the Natural Numbers, our common old plain counting numbers are really in fact the p-adic integers and that is why p-adics are so very important. They are the Quantum Mechanics of mathematics as compared to the old Newtonian Mechanics.

I do hope the math department of Dartmouth reconsiders its project and switches over to doing the p-adics.