Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Imagine Science Film Festival Review: Fermat's Room

First, I should tell you that the film is in Spanish, and if you can read, it's worth watching. Oh, and it's a math movie. So those who don't like math or reading are better off renting Dumb and Dumber-- but for everyone else, Fermat's Room is a fantastic movie, full of suspense and deception.
Four of Spain's brightest mathematicians are invited to a prestigious dinner party to discuss great mathematical enigmas. They do eat dinner, and they do solve a few word problems, but more importantly they are trapped in a room with a killer. It's not just any room, either. The room is rigged to hydraulic presses that push the walls in with every second that passes the alloted time that the mathematicians are given to solve a riddle. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say that some live, and some die.

Here are a couple of Fermat's puzzles to ponder, just in case you are invited to a mysterious dinner party before you're able to see the film:

1. In “False Land” everyone always lies. In “Truth Land” everyone always tells the truth. A stranger is trapped between two doors, each one guarded by a jailer. One of the guards is from "False Land," and one is from “Truth Land,” but the stranger doesn't know which jailer is from where.
One door leads to freedom, and the other doesn't. The stranger can only ask one question to one jailer. What should he ask to be sure that he knows which is the door to freedom?

2. How can you time a period of nine minutes when you only have two sand clocks, one that measures four minutes and one that measures seven minutes?

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