Film industry turns to Oxford for mathematical expertise

11 January 2012

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The expertise of mathematician Alain Goriely from the Oxford Martin School has been called upon by film makers Warner Brothers in the production of the latest Sherlock Holmes film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Popular science magazine, New Scientist reported details of this unusual application of top level maths to the world of entertainment.

Professor Alain Goriely, Director of the Programme on Solar Energy: Organic Photovoltaics at the Oxford Martin School, along with Derek Moulton from Oxford’s Mathematical Institute, were initially asked by the film’s creators to come up with 19th Century equations to fill Moriarty’s blackboard for one scene of the film.

Moriarty, Holmes’s arch enemy, is portrayed as a maths professor, and filmmakers recognised the necessity of robust mathematical input to make the character believable.

Goriely and Moulton ended up going beyond written equations and developed a secret mathematical code that Moriarty uses in the film to send messages around a Europe on the brink of the war he is conniving.

Photo by Bryan Costin