Friday, May 21, 2010

The End of Numb3rs

Sunday marks the end of the TV series that deals with the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. Monday marks the end of the TV series called "24". But lets talk about Numb3rs, which CBS officially recently announced would not be renewed for next year and aired its last episode on March 12th. 

Back in December of 2004 I wrote a skeptical post on this new TV series announced by CBS about "a FBI agent who recruits his brother, a math genius, to help solve crimes." The show lasted a surprisingly long six seasons and this is the 17th of the our blog posts through the years that have mentioned the show. 

After a solid start, the series slowly devolved into a crime procedural where the math became more jargon than relevant. I admit that I stopped watching after a while but have since been catching up on DVD. I haven't seen the last season yet.

Theoretical computer science had several mentions on the show with algorithms from Dijkstra to Kruskal to Shor. In the second episode, the mathematician Charlie became obsessed over P versus NP. In the second season Charlie exclaimed to a purported psychic "Let's all sit down at the Ouija Board and try to solve P versus NP once and for all."

What I liked most about the show was the portrayal of the scientists, in particular the interactions between the mathematician Charlie (played by David Krumholtz) and the physicist Larry (Peter MacNicol). Their personalities and discussions seemed real, not unlike a various combination of academics I know (as opposed to say The Big Bang Theory).

Now that Charlie no longer needs to catch criminals, he can go back to being obsessed over P and NP, doing some real good in the world.


  1. BBT is no less realistic than NUMB3RS in how the dialog works

  2. @anon1: Then why do I laugh a lot more watching BBT than I do at work?

  3. Uhm, interestic, I find The Big Bang Theory a lot more realistic. I guess I have funnier friends :P.

    Or maybe it is a generational thing, I don't know.

  4. So apparently Charlie thinks that P vs NP can be solved using oracle techniques?

  5. Bulletin: according to James Randi's blog, the long-running maths show "Martin Gardner" has reached its final end ... after 95 years.

    Best ... show ... ever. :(

  6. Martin Gardner passed away.