Movie producer to present amazing tale of hidden maths genius

US professor of mathematics Ken Ono will be in Palmerston North next week to talk about the story of maths genius ...
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US professor of mathematics Ken Ono will be in Palmerston North next week to talk about the story of maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.

A producer behind a star-studded film about one of the 20th century's greatest thinkers will visit Palmerston North to talk maths and movies.

Actors Jeremy Irons, Stephen Fry, and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) starred in 2015 British film The Man Who Knew Infinity, which tells the true story of an Indian man who conquered poverty and racism early last century to become one of the most important figures in maths.

American professor of maths Ken Ono was an associate producer and will give a free public lecture on Monday about the film and Srinivasa Ramanujan's life and work.

2015 British film The Man Who Knew Infinity starred Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, and told the story of Indian maths ...
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2015 British film The Man Who Knew Infinity starred Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, and told the story of Indian maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.

His role as associate producer has taken him to the red-carpet premiere, seen him mixing with the famous cast and working on the script, and he later presented the film and a talk about science education at the White House.

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It has also given him the opportunity to share what he thinks is a tale the world should know.

Mathematician Ken Ono, left, working on set of the film The Man Who Knew Infinity, with actor Dev Patel.
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Mathematician Ken Ono, left, working on set of the film The Man Who Knew Infinity, with actor Dev Patel.

Ramanujan was like an Einstein or Newton for physics. He progressed maths in leaps and bounds, and new discoveries are still being made from his writings, Ono said.

Cell phones, satellites and sophisticated information networks make use of his sums. Much of Ono's own work has been based on Ramanujan's ideas. "The notebooks he left behind have continued to power research for the last 100 years."

Ramanujan was born in India in 1887. He flunked university, partly because he was so distracted by exploring his own mathematical calculations instead of sitting assessments.

He faced poverty and illness, but his work eventually reached the hands of a Cambridge professor who fought racism to persuade the university to enrol Ramanujan, and to have his work published before his early death.

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The story has inspired Ono and others to promote the benefits of science and technology education and research for society.

"His story matters because he is an example of a person who could have never been discovered... [and it] is important because it represents an example of what can be achieved when people from different cultures work together to tackle difficult challenges," Ono said.

He will speak at the maths department at Massey University, then give a free public lecture on Monday at 7pm, at the Palmerston North Girls' High School library.

 - Stuff

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