"I think you could make a movie about a mathematician who is not psychotic or schizophrenic," said Ken Keeler, a PhD in applied math who has written for "Futurama" and "The Simpsons." John Nash, the Nobel Prize winner who was played by Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind," is the latter, and his mental illness served as the bulk of that film's drama, rather than his mathematical innovations.Numb3rs portrays math about as well as it can for the audience. Yes, it is exaggerated and simplified, but so is everything else on TV.
"Numb3rs," the popular CBS show about a mathematician who helps federal investigators crack cases, would appear to be an exception. But Mr. Keeler notes that even Charlie Eppes, the hero of the show played by David Krumholtz, "is not normal."
Eppes is not normal, but he is not a lunatic like most of the Hollywood mathematicians. Good Will Hunting (1997) and Pi (1998) present particular negative images of mathematicians.