George Dantzig: The real Will Hunting

How the story of a statistics student being late to class became the inspiration for the protagonist of Good Will Hunting.

Photo credit: oman Mager on Unsplash
  • One of the iconic scenes from Good Will Hunting shows Matt Damon's character anonymously solving a nigh-impossible math problem on a blackboard at the university where he works as a janitor.
  • This story, while modified for the purposes of the film, actually happened.
  • George Dantzig, who would later become a famous mathematician, was late to his graduate statistics class one day when he saw two statistical problems on a blackboard that he mistook for homework.
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Culture & Religion

A century of alien landings, in two maps

First contact movies had their Golden Age in 1980s America – now they're going global.

Credit: Dylan_Mq. Find his maps on Reddit, Twitter and Etsy.
  • The first extra-terrestrial to make contact (in a movie) appeared in 1920s Germany.
  • ET set off a wave of 'first contact' movies in the 1980s.
  • Many recent alien-landing movies are set in China and India – the future of the genre may well be Asian.
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Strange Maps

Why your favourite film baddies all have a truly evil laugh

What's the role of evil in storytelling?

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Night, Christopher Nolan, 2008

Towards the end of the Disney film Aladdin (1992), our hero's love rival, the evil Jafar, discovers Aladdin's secret identity and steals his magic lamp. Jafar's wish to become the world's most powerful sorcerer is soon granted, and he then uses his powers to banish Aladdin to the ends of the Earth.

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Mind & Brain

Is James Bond an alcoholic?

A scientific study of the legendary drinker.

Image source: Artem Shadrin/Shutterstock
  • A new study analyzes the possibility that Bond has a problem.
  • The lethal super spy generally rocks a killer blood-alcohol level.
  • What's actually so cool about this guy?
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Culture & Religion

The silent Chinese propaganda in Hollywood films

China's rise has necessitated a global PR push. It includes influencing how the movies you watch depict China.

President Xi Jinping and Brad Pitt in World War Z. (Image: Big Think/Getty)
  • China will soon overtake the U.S. as the world's largest market for films, and it is using that fact to influence how it is depicted by Hollywood.
  • While Chinese investors have been interested in buying shares of studios for a while, the real power lies in deciding which movies get into China at all.
  • The influence is often subtle, but may have already derailed a few careers in the name of politics.
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Politics & Current Affairs