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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross

Merry Andrew (1958)

Opening sequence

1:11:00
On the blackboard:
(x+y)^2 = x^2+2xy+y^2
(x+y)(x-y)=x^2-y^2
equal + equal = equal
Andrew entering the classroom
CLASS: Good morning, Sir.
ANDREW: My, my, my, this is a jolly group. You think you’ve got problems. Well, let’s start by reviewing the subjects we need brushing up on. Mitcheson, what is gravity?
MITCHESON: Gravity is a pull exerted by the Earth on the terrestrial objects near or upon it.
ANDREW: What does that mean?
Mitcheson: Don’t know, sir.
ANDREW: Does anybody? Well, it’s very simple, really. What goes up, must come down and that’s all there is to gravity (to demonstrate he is juggling three apples). \
Kid: Do that again, Sir.
ANDREW: I’m really not very good at it, but I have a friend at the circus who is extremely good at it.
KID: What circus?
ANDREW: The famous Galini. She can juggle 10 of these while walking on a high wire. That is really defying gravity. You’d be astonished to find how many times each day we prove scientific principles. For example, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (bounces ball off the floor). A body at rest tends to remain at rest (pulls napkin out under a vase full of flowers). Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, for example (rolls one of the kids out of bed and sits down himself).
Outside on the lawn
CLASS RECITING: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
ANDREW: Well, more or less (just did an amazing stunt where the white ball dodges the other balls which it would have hit had it gone in a straight line). Gentleman, if I was to place this mallet in this position, what would it form?
KID: Right angle.
ANDREW: Right, and now
KID: A right triangle.
ANDREW: Absolutely wizard. Once again: The square of the hypothenus of a right triangle (starts singing) is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides. Do not tolerate letting your participle dangle, so please effect the self same respect for your geometric slides. Old Einstein said it, when he was getting nowhere. Give him credit, he was hurt to declare: Eureka! The square of the hypothenus of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides. Now that we’ve come this far men, let’s go through the rules again. Parallel lines never connect, which is just about what you might expect. Though scientific laws may change and decimals can be moved, the following is constant and has yet to be disproved. The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares, not less not more, as I said before, is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides.