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I am looking for mathematical documentaries, both technical and non-technical. They should be "interesting" in that they present either actual mathematics, mathematicians or history of mathematics. I am in charge of nourishing our departmental math library (PUCV) and I would like to add this kind of material in order to attract undergraduates toward mathematics. For this reason, I am not looking for videos of conferences or seminar talks, but rather for introductory or "wide public" material.

Here are some good examples.

Are there more examples? Thanks, Ricardo.

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    $\begingroup$ Not exactly a documentary, but appropriate for an undergrad math library: youtube.com/watch?v=wO61D9x6lNY $\endgroup$ – Aaron Hoffman Jun 19 '12 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Consult this other question mathoverflow.net/questions/1714/best-online-math-videos ... answers include documentaries, perhaps. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Jun 19 '12 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ This question should surely be community wiki. $\endgroup$ – HJRW Jun 19 '12 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, Ricardo: please edit your question and click on the option "communiy wiki" (see the FAQ for more information on what that is). $\endgroup$ – André Henriques Jun 19 '12 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @André Henriques and @HW: thanks, it's done. $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Menares Jun 19 '12 at 21:38

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"With striking images, some mathematical humor, a little drama, and a nice puzzle, this is again a very charming movie from director Ekaterina Eremenko." - John Rognes, Chairman of the Abel Committee

Trailer is here

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The LMS commissioned a film "Thinking Space".

Through explorations of their various thought processes, the film portrays mathematicians who are grappling with advanced mathematical ideas. We are presented with the concepts of imagination, intuition, and wonder, as well as rigorous mathematical deduction.

The film features Kevin Buzzard, Peter Donnelly, Tim Gowers, Martin Hairer, Roger Penrose, Caroline Series, Richard Thomas, Reidun Twarock, and Karen Vogtmann.

There are some excerpts on the LMS website: Frames of mind. However, you can also find the whole film on vimeo: Thinking Space by Heidi Morstang (posted by the director of the film).

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Recently a documentary on Maryam Mirzakhani was released called Secrets of the Surface: The Mathematical Vision of Maryam Mirzakhani. It both described her personal life/journey through mathematics, as well as an introduction to part of her research aimed at a general audience.

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The Joy of Stats by Hans Rosling.

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Marcus du Sautoy has a number of BBC math specials and short series dealing with concepts of zero, infinity, measurement. Some are done under the Horizon umbrella.

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Nova's Mathematical Mystery Tour is a really nice one and is on youtube.

httpS://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbOyXO-JFX8&feature=related

RAMANUJAN: Letters from an Indian Clerk again available on youtube.

httpS://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OARGZ1xXCxs

This question was also asked on math stackexchange sometime back and here is the link to it.

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"Between The Folds" is another beautiful documentary about Math. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE4lqYzS2m0

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  • $\begingroup$ The youtube link in the answer seems to be dead. Here is a Wikipedia link about this documentary: Between the Folds. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 19 '20 at 7:54
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Something new every day is a great short documentary about Ron Graham by George Csicsery.

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In February of this year (2016), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation sponsored a workshop at the Fields Institute about the development of a new 'language' to represent mathematics in computerized/formalized form.

The participants were 40 mathematicians, logicians, experts in computational mathematics and formalized mathematics.

Because bringing the approximate 100 million pages of peer-reviewed research mathematics into a modern, computer-understandable form will be a long term global effort (https://arxiv.org/abs/1404.1905), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation also sponsored the making of a documentary-style video about the workshop; including participant interviews (e.g. with Ingrid Daubechies, Yuri Matiyasevich, Harvey Friedman, Stanislav Smirnov, Jeremy Avigad, Georges Gonthier) to foster a more global discussion on the subjects involved in developing such a new 'language'.

Topics such as: what is mathematics, why we need proofs, how to get more people involved in formal mathematics, what is the mechanized future of mathematics and others are discussed.

I was one of the workshop organizers, and we just finished editing a 90 min video ("Towards a Semantic Language of Mathematics") and it is now on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psSyM1zp82k

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Apparently nobody mentioned Serre's "How to write mathematics badly".

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    $\begingroup$ Is it a documentary or a lecture? $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Sep 10 '20 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, you are probably right. Though the difference is not so clear to me, this is a documentary on how to write mathematics... $\endgroup$ – abx Sep 11 '20 at 7:44
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The youtube channel of Simons Foundation can be considered as a series of one-shot "documentaries" about puzzles and (auto)biographies of mathematicians: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZVjCmJOQRpAQ_EruAIPqXg

There is also a (rare?) documentary on the life of Grothendieck in french, I saw a trailer here: https://youtu.be/UO5KgnTY_fU

Unfortunately I haven't seen the movie but apparently they are working on an english translation of the movie as well.

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"Counting From Infinity" is a recent (nontechnical) documentary about Yitang Zhang's work on bounded gaps between primes: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/countingindex.html

Some description of the documentary is also included in the New Yorker profile about Zhang: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/pursuit-beauty

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NOVA's Hunting the Hidden Dimension

Mysteriously beautiful fractals are shaking up the world of mathematics and deepening our understanding of nature.

Program Description

You may not know it, but fractals, like the air you breathe, are all around you. Their irregular, repeating shapes are found in cloud formations and tree limbs, in stalks of broccoli and craggy mountain ranges, even in the rhythm of the human heart. In this film, NOVA takes viewers on a fascinating quest with a group of maverick mathematicians determined to decipher the rules that govern fractal geometry.

For centuries, fractal-like irregular shapes were considered beyond the boundaries of mathematical understanding. Now, mathematicians have finally begun mapping this uncharted territory. Their remarkable findings are deepening our understanding of nature and stimulating a new wave of scientific, medical, and artistic innovation stretching from the ecology of the rain forest to fashion design. The documentary highlights a host of filmmakers, fashion designers, physicians, and researchers who are using fractal geometry to innovate and inspire. Aired August 24, 2011 on PBS

See the following site for program information and to order the DVD: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/hunting-hidden-dimension.html

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There is a document "Banach spaces" about S.Banach and other polish mathematicians from Lviv ( S.Ulam, J.P.Schauder)

Unfortunetelly I don't know about any translation to english.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJgl_Z9Yz1Q

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The best I have ever seen is "The Proof". It is a Nova documentary on Sir Andrew Wiles and his proof of Fermat's last theorem. I can always find something interesting to talk about with my students who range from algebra one level to calculus.

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You can find a selection of open source maths films on the IMAGINARY platform: http://www.imaginary.org/films

Many of the already mentioned films are there (like Dimensions, Chaos, Braids, etc.), but also some really good new ones, like "The Future of Glaciers", etc. The platform is also open for contributions from outside, so you can come back and find a growing repository of free licensed maths films.

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  • $\begingroup$ Woah, this is really cool. $\endgroup$ – user40887 Dec 20 '16 at 2:58
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Although not a video series, the podcast series Relatively Prime by Samuel Hansen is a superbly produced series of 8 podcasts including interviews with eminent mathematicians and covering a wide range of topics. Perfect listening material for long commutes I've found.

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I enjoyed watching "Great thinkers, great theorems" by William Dunham.

It is a great overview of the history, and still manages to get down to actually proving a lot of non-trivial stuff.

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Genius and villains: Kolmogorov (Russian)

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PBS NOVA from April 15 2015 The Great Math Mystery

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I can highly recommend MESH - A Journey Through Discrete Geometry by Beau Janzen and Konrad Polthier. Old and new are nicely linked together and the computer animations are great. The film won many prizes.

Then there is a feature about Yuri Manin by Agnes Handwerk and Harrie Willems called Late Style.

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Here is a short film on Paul Halmos.

  • The 44-minute film contains a rare interview with Paul Halmos by Peter Renz, revealing his thoughts on mathematics, and how to teach it and write about it. Five bonus features include comments by mathematicians Robert Bekes, David Eisenbud, Jean Pedersen, and Donald Sarason about their experiences with Halmos. Interviews with Halmos by Don Albers and Halmos's own writings are included as PDF documents
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    $\begingroup$ This is just a link to the Wikipedia page? $\endgroup$ – Steve D Mar 27 '13 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Steve D: The [home page of the film] (zalafilms.com/films/halmospsynopsis.html), has an order form for ordering a copy; you get a $10 discount for AMA membership. $\endgroup$ – Danny Ruberman Jan 17 '14 at 13:54
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Well, you may want to check out some short documentaries about beautiful minds. For example, my mathematical idol Kurt Gödel, here is the clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2KP1vWkQ6Y There can be many more examples, just to give the students a taste of what it is like to be a mathematician.

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Two good ones that were recently uploaded to youtube:

Paul Halmos (teaching): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KWaBikjnYw

Yitang Zhang (bounded gaps between primes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIIyKWxGhEA

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  • $\begingroup$ both were recently removed due to copyright. major bummer $\endgroup$ – Forever Mozart May 6 '17 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ Are they documentaries? $\endgroup$ – C.F.G Nov 19 '20 at 8:04
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There's Mathematics Illuminated, see https://www.learner.org/series/mathematics-illuminated/ These were intended as professional development for teachers.

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Leon Henkin, an expert on mathematical logic and induction, made a movie on Mathematical Induction

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