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Between the Lines

For years now we have been marveling at the lessons

that can be learned by people from all walks of life from the rainbow

of artists and art works profiled in our Preview section. When flutist

James Galway talks about his practice regimen, you feel you could

take the process, apply it to your next sales presentation, and walk

out a world-class performer. When designer Ming Cho Lee weighs the

pros and cons of accepting one of Broadway’s big risky design jobs,

it’s a dilemma familiar to consultants in every field. And cartoonist

Patrick McDonnell of "Mutts" fame debates the virtues of


at a blank sheet of paper yet waking up at 2 a.m. with an inspired

idea. Business people, technicians, researchers — we all can


from rubbing shoulders with the arts.

In this issue we are reminded that this shoulder-rubbing is a two-way

street. Now we’re seeing an array of scientists — creative,


thinkers all — inspiring today’s artists.

On page 48 of this issue Simon Saltzman talks with artists Joshua

Rosenblum and Joanne Sydney Lessner who are premiering their


musical based on the remarkable story of Princeton University


Andrew J. Wiles. The man who identified an intriguing problem at age

10 eventually devoted more than seven years of his life to unraveling

the mystery of one of the great challenges in

the history of mathematics — the proof of Fermat’s theorem.

Rosenblum is no stranger to Princeton, having led the Greater

Princeton Youth Orchestra (another harbor for young people, many

gifted in both music and the sciences) for two seasons. The night

Saltzman saw the show, Peter Sarnak of the Princeton math department

and a close colleague of Wiles was also there and sat in on a

post-show panel.

"Fermat’s Last Tango," as the show is called, is by no means

the only math drama finding resonance with audiences this season.

"Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn imagines a meeting after death

between physicists Niels Bohr and his former protege Werner

Heisenberg, as they re-live a 1941 meeting that took place in Denmark

when Heisenberg was chief of the Nazi A-bomb project. And

"Proof" (reviewed in this issue on page 30) also finds

parallels between scientific and artistic insight and inspiration.

Now, aiming for a much larger audience than any vestpocket

Off-Broadway theater, Russell Crowe has been hired to portray

Princeton University mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., winner of the

1994 Nobel Prize in economics for work he did for his doctoral thesis

at age 22. Director (and former whiz kid) Ron Howard, who has titled

his film, "A Beautiful Mind," plans to tell the story of the

brilliant Nash, now 72, whose life has been colored by ongoing battles

with schizophrenia.

Howard has already visited the Princeton campus to look at potential

filming sites. We expect a flurry of excitement

comparable to that raised by the Einstein fantasy picture for Walter

Matthau and Meg Ryan, "I.Q." Howard’s film is scheduled for a

December 2001 premiere.

As Saltzman discovered with the thorny Fermat, these popular

representations can prove instructive. Perhaps Howard can help us

grasp the Nash Equilibrium. Here, again, we’re counting on the power

of the arts.

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