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Actor + math whiz + comedian = 1 hit

  1. December 17, 2002
  2. William Brand

Oakland Tribune
By William Brand, Staff Writer
December 17, 2002

San Francisco -- It was about as unlikely as Pablo Picasso hanging out with Albert Einstein: Actor-director Steve Martin discussing "funny numbers" on stage with UC Berkeley mathematician Robert Osserman, and comedian Robin Williams unexpectedly walking onto the stage to toss in outrageous asides.

The meeting between the young Picasso and the fledgling Einstein happened only in a play written by Steve Martin, who besides starring in film classics such as "LA Story" and the "Little Shop of Horrors" writes plays and humorous articles.

But Martin, Williams and Osserman did indeed talk about math to a sold-out and convulsed house Sunday night in San Francisco. The event was sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at University of California, Berkeley, one of the nation's most prestigious think tanks, where theoretical scientists regularly probe math's most puzzling questions....


Sylvia Nasar, author of "A Beautiful Mind," about Nobel Laureate John Nash, appeared at an MSRI event earlier this year, in conversation with Columbia mathematician Dave Bayer, Eisenbud said. Bayer, who is left-handed like Nash, wrote the equations filmed in the movie version of the book.

MSRI also helped found the Bay Area Math Olympics for student mathematicians, he noted....

The City Arts & Lectures program will be broadcast on KQED-FM radio, 88.5, on Sunday, March 16, 2003, at 1 p.m. and again on Tuesday, March 18 at 8 p.m. More information on MSRI can be found at www.msri.org