Friday, October 3, 2003

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (1)

Drezner's Hollywood minute for geeks

The University of Chicago campus is abuzz over the location filming of Proof, U of C alum David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play!! Why, earlier this week, your intrepid blogger had to dodge multiple cast trailers parked right outside your correspondent's office!!

This production has attracted only the Hollywood A list!! It stars Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow!! Academy award nominee John Madden will direct!!

OK, enough channeling of the Access Hollywood prose style.

While the Entertainment Weekly reader in me is delighted that Gwyneth is in town, the geek in me is unsated.

Far be it for me to critique Paltrow's amazing acting chops. Clearly, she can excel at the New York socialite/period Briton roles in her own vavoom kind of way. However, the lead in Proof is supposed to be a tortured, brilliant daughter of another mathematical genius. Now I've seen Paltrow on the occasional talk show, and, well, let's just say it's debatable whether she ever absorbed some of the basic mathematical concepts, like, for example, prime numbers.

But who, you ask, could replace Paltrow at the last minute? Why, look no further than Danica McKellar, most widely known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. She's all grown up now, and has a recurring role on The West Wing. Judging by this picture, I don't think she'd drive away many moviegoers:


More importantly, she knows a thing or two about mathematics, as this Chicago Tribune story points out. The highlights:

She actually is a genuine math whiz and she actually did once author such a mathematical "proof," graduating summa cum laude from UCLA in 1998 with a degree in analytical math.

The "proof" she had to complete was all about "Percolation and Gibb's-states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models in two dimensions." (I know actresses who can't even say that.)

A professor picked her and another student and said, `I really want to train you guys to be research mathematicians. There's a theorem I think is true and I want you two to prove it."

She spent nearly a year just gathering the background material for the task.

"We worked tirelessly," she said. "This was in the area of statistical mechanics. A great thing about this kind of research is that all it takes is a pencil and a piece of paper. You experiment with things. You try different techniques. You try to get at the problem from different angles. The scary part about working on an original proof is that you don't know if the thing is provable."

"The theorem eventually did turn out to be true, thank goodness," she said. "The experience of proving it was amazing. It was so intense. There was no room for any other thought, any other subject during that time."

Playbill has more!!:

"As an undergrad," according to biographical notes, "she co-authored a research paper that helped solve a new problem in the area of Statistical Mechanics, now known as the "As an undergrad," according to biographical notes, "she co-authored a research paper that helped solve a new problem in the area of Statistical Mechanics, now known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem... and was invited to speak to a subcommittee of Congress on the importance of women in math and science."

Best of all, the reason McKellar is featured in theTribune and Playbill stories is that she is currently appearing in the West Coast production of Proof!!

Geeks of the world, unite!! Say it loud and say it proud!!

We want Danica!!

Danica!! Danica!! DANICA!!

posted by Dan on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM


And of course, she's a babe too...not that should matter .

posted by: Manny M-R on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM [permalink]

Are you trying to say that your average Hollywood spokesmodel-type can't do analytical math? Your biases are profound, and perhaps irreversible.

posted by: John Salmon on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM [permalink]

More exclamation points! We need more!!!!

posted by: Seb on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM [permalink]

In keeping with the main themes of this site (US Foreign Policy and Salma Hayek), the imdb has pictures of Danica & Salma in Kosovo:

posted by: John on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM [permalink]

i knew her sister, crystal, in college. she was a sharp cookie, too. interestingly, the sister played what's-her-name--the one who slapped kevin arnold.

posted by: praktike on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM [permalink]

Excellent call.

The porch set is on our morning running path, which has provided added incentive to get out there in the mornings. No sightings to report, though.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 10.03.03 at 02:41 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?