Dr. Ian Malcolm! Good to see you! How’s Austin treating you? Look, I’m guessing you know why I asked you here today.
Will you visit Jurassic World? The World needs you.
We MISS YOU. With all this talk of them reopening the park, getting old Gwen Stacy, Star-Lord, and Kingpin in there to manage the dinos, I think it’ll be good for you, maybe purge some old demons, I mean, third, maybe fourth, time’s the charm, right?
I’ve prepared a presentation. Don’t worry, it’s not too long.
(Yes, I’m starting with zero. I thought you’d appreciate that.)
0. You’re a mathematician who is surprisingly NOT crazy.
Not crazy? And right about everything on top of that? And a little, uh, easy on the eyes.
I mean, sure, you talk to yourself, you’re antagonistic to a fault, prone to long-winded speeches about life and extinction and complexity and the absurdity of the belief in human control over nature, a bit sexist (even more so in the book), and you’re not really physically effective half the time, but you’re still the best character in the story. Hands and wounded legs down.
I’m addressing you here now, Mr Goldblum. You’ve played your share of scientists-under-duress: Cronenberg’s teleportation-challenged Seth Brundle and David Levinson, computer scientist in Independence Day, for a couple. The MO of a Goldblum scientist is: bitch, bitch, bitch, have things go terribly wrong, and not quite fix everything. That’s got to be fun to act.
But back to Ian, there’s a reason I’m asking you to come back.
- Good Will Hunting—A sufferer of child abuse, anger management issues (but cute in a 1990s Bostony way)
- Pi—paranoid, hallucinating, self-harming
- A Beautiful Mind (based on the life of John Nash)—… it’s Russell Crowe. But schizophrenic.
- Proof—”The problem is, you are crazy!” and hereditary graphomania, paranoia, delusions, anger, depression…
- various Sherlock Holmes adaptations—Moriarty, of course. psychotic mastermind.
- The Zero Theorem—asocial tendencies, existential mental traps, etc.
- The Imitiation Game (based on the life of Alan Turing)—It’s just upsetting. I don’t want to talk about it.
We need a cute, non-crazy scientific representation on screen once in a while. At this point, I’m expecting Tom Hardy and Jared Leto to be fighting over who gets to play Kurt Gödel in 2018. Can we have just a little buffer of your sane snark until then?
And I don’t care if you’ve gone a little gray now… it’s just science.
1. You introduced Hollywood to chaos theory.
Ian Malcolm, “chaotician.” I mean, at least it’s not “symbologist”… but, vastly inferior franchises aside, chaos theory is actually a really most sincerely active field of mathematics. Chaos theory is the study of nonlinear dynamics, specifically in which tiny changes in initial inputs can lead to wildly different long-term results. There are nice connections to fractals, ergodicity, and differential equations that make really pretty pictures.
Most of what you say, while accurate, is lifted not-so-gently from James Gleick’s book Chaos: Making a New Science, the book that inspired Michael Crichton to write you as primary naysayer of John Hammond’s Jurassic Park. David Ruelle, who also wrote a popular book about chance and chaos in between the first novel and the film, could have been a reference point for some of the screenplay version, so we’ll consider him an inspiration as well. (I know, there are others. Too many chaoticians.)
But seriously, A+ for using your math as a flirting device.
Life, uh, finds a way, amirite?
2. You wear anti-fashion reasonably well.
To quote you:
“I believe my life has value, and I don’t want to waste it thinking about clothing. I don’t want to think about what I will wear in the morning. Truly, can you imagine anything more boring than fashion? Professional sports, perhaps. Grown men swatting little balls, while the rest of the world pays money to applaud. But, on the whole, I find fashion even more tedious than sports.”
And then this is what you wear to a research facility on a tropical island, you handsome devil:
Seriously. If you can at least get the Mathematicians and Scientists of Tomorrow (I’ll call them MSTies) to avoid mom jeans and khakis, you will have done a service well beyond that of not really protecting us from dinosaurs.
3. You were the first mathematician/scientist I heard referred to as a “rock star.”
Now, of course, this is in pop culture, but the term has been liberally used on scientists and mathematicians in recent years, in no small part because of you.
In fact, I think you were the first career mathematician I ever met in fiction at all—sure, there were scientists, technicians, engineers (I know you hate engineers), but they were usually stereotypically “nerdy,” or innocuous, or creepy, or just “crazy”… the list goes on. As I said before, we needed someone that, well, wasn’t a “nerd,” even if they were a nerd.
As for the term “rock star,” I’ll let the record speak for itself on this one.
- Mathematicians: Huge nerds in the U.S., rock stars in China (Collision Detection, 2003)
- Ada Lovelace: Intellectual. Rockstar mathematician. Visionary. (Tor.com, 2010)
- Scientists as rock stars? (The Scientist, 2010)
- 10 Scientist Rockstars (io9, 2011)
- Meet 6 Rock Star Scientists (MNN, 2014)
4. Jurassic World could use a father figure.
[Really, it doesn’t need one, Dear Readers, but Dr. Malcolm likes being a father. So bear with me.]
Come on, they’ve got it under control this time! Well, OK, they probably don’t.
And with John Hammond gone (RIP Richard Attenborough), you may need to pop your head in, even if only to say, “Seriously, people, again? Don’t do this again.”
Plus you get a free trip out of the deal. And they’ll listen this time, they really will. We swear, your daughter will be safe this time around. We’ve seen you with Kelly (your queen, your goddess, your inspiration), how you got her through the Isla Sorna incident. You actually turned into an honest-to-god action hero there, so we know you can hold your own if things get rowdy.
And Star-Lord, well, I’m sure he’ll listen, at least. He’s a stand-up guy.
5. Now that I have your attention, I really want to ask you, what’s your Erdös number?
Seriously. Knowing this might bring about the Tommy Westphall for mathematics and movies. …Actually, hold on, you’re in movies. What’s your Erdös-Bacon number number? Mr Goldblum, help me out here—your Bacon number is 2. Ian, since your film presence is probably based somewhat on David Ruelle, maybe we can use his Erdös number of 3?
Okay, I got it. Your combined Erdös-Bacon number is 5. Congrats, you beat out Winnie Cooper!
So, what do you say, Dr. Malcolm? Will you please come visit Jurassic World? I swear Chris Pratt didn’t train the raptors on the door handles this time.
Michael Carlisle is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Baruch College, City University of New York. His work in probability theory is not nearly as chaotic as it is… random. What are the odds you’ll tweet at him?