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Pi: Transcendence Through Film

Essay by review  •  December 1, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,954 Words (8 Pages)  •  927 Views

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God Is In The T.V.

No system can understand a system of equal or greater design. A human being can study the human brain and know how it works; electrical impulses are sent between nerve endings which then communicate with the rest of the body, but no man knows why the brain works. It is the same way a computer cannot understand why it computes. It is able to read binary code and process information at incredible speeds, but the computer is unaware of a human presence controlling its actions. In Darren Aronofsky's film "Pi", Max Cohen, a paranoid number theorist, searches for the pattern that drives the Stock Market, concentrating on chaos theory and the golden ratio. What he eventually learns, though, is more than he bargained for. Max transcends his own mortality and experiences God when he discovers that the universe, including God, is made of pattern driven spirals.

Max Cohen is a paranoid mathematician on the brink of insanity. He has spent his life's work attempting to break the code of the stock market. He believes this is possible because of his three assumptions: 1. Mathematics is the language of nature. 2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. 3. If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge. Therefore: There are patterns everywhere in nature. Max says, "Millions of human hands at work, billions of minds...a vast network, screaming with life: an organism. A natural organism." He builds a giant supercomputer named Euclid that he uses to predict stock quotes on a daily basis. Max uses chaos theory, the study of "forever-changing complex systems", to arrive at these conclusions. Chaos theory states that "complex and unpredictable results will occur in systems that are sensitive to small changes in their initial conditions" ( This means that the most minuscule

disturbance in a system as complex as the stock market can have innumerable results and consequences. While these results are seemingly random, after time they begin to develop a pattern; a method to the madness.

On one occasion Max only receives two stock pics, one of which predicts an all-time company low, falling nearly 40 points in one fell swoop. This type of prediction is so extreme that Max discards it as human error, also discarding the 216 digit number that accompanies his two stock pics. The next day, lo and behold, his impossible stock pics come true, yet he has thrown out his data along with the 216 digit number. He visits his mentor Sol Robeson, a Russian mathematician who also attempted to crack the stock market, but failed when he suffered from a stroke and was forced to retire. Sol informs Max that he, too, came across the same number in his studies, and explains it as a moment of computing consciousness. Sol calls the number a "bug," stating that for one brief moment the computer became aware of its own mechanics. This is in itself a moment of electrical transcendence. The computer surpasses its own design and is able to understand the factors governing its functions, in essence becoming greater than itself.

While analyzing his stock picks one afternoon, Max comes across Lenny Myers, a Hasidic Jew who studies Kaballistic number theory, otherwise known as Gammantria. Lenny is attempting to unlock the source pattern of the Torah, the equivalent of the Jewish bible. This intrigues Max, as the Torah is similar to the stock market in that they are both non-linear, dynamic, chaotic systems of complex natures. Max decides to help Lenny in his search, so Lenny provides Max with a diskette containing the entire Torah and its numerical values. Max predicts that analyzing this information should yield interesting results, and it does. What Max gets is the same 216 digit number, which is the most important discovery he has ever made. He frantically attempts to write it down, but instead memorizes it.

What is interesting is the use of light and shadow so far in the film. When Max finds the 216 digit number the first time, he suffers a migraine attack, rocking back and forth. Suddenly, all is quiet, and his door begins to shudder. It grows louder and louder until it bursts open, washing Max and his apartment in a sea of blinding white light. He wakes up in his bathroom with a nosebleed. The second time Max finds the number he attempts to write it down, but stops after about 30 digits. He stares intently at the computer screen, and is again swallowed by white light, right after he notices the digit sequence 3-1-4 in the center of the 216 digit number. He again wakes up disillusioned with a nosebleed. The light here represents Max's transcendence towards God. Each time he encounters this number and begins to understand it, he goes numb. This can be drawn back to Max's initial speech of the film. He opens by saying, "When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So one day when I was six, I did...the next day I had my first headache" ( He encountered God for the first time when he stared at the sun, and was given his gift of understanding this system that is greater than him. Much like Euclid, every time Max came to understand the ultimate pattern, he "crashed", passing out and waking up later with a nosebleed and a headache.

Enter the ants. These little buggers damper Max's studies when he finds them crawling across his apartment. He finds the first one inside the airtight container that holds Euclid above his monitors. When he removes the ant, he notices a strange goo that has clogged his motherboard. Upon studying the goo, Max finds the microcosm of the macrocosm; spirals within spirals within spirals. Max adds one more theory to his list of assumptions, stating "My new Hypothesis: If we're built from Spirals while living in a giant Spiral, then is it possible that everything we put our hands to is infused with the Spiral? For one blinding moment, everything came into focus" ( This explains everything. The stock market, the most complex human arrangement of finance, holds the source pattern of the spiral, as does the Torah, as does God. It is at this point we realize that God is the ultimate spiral. Everything in the universe, when approached through chaos theory, will eventually yield the 216 digit number as its source pattern.

This explains the reasoning behind Max's transcendence through the sun. When he blinded himself at the age of 6, he met God. It was God who gave Max the ability to find this pattern, for Max is descended from a matriarchal line of Jewish high priests dating back to the brother of Moses. Only those who are Kohen (Max Cohen, eh?) are allowed to be in God's presence without succumbing to death. Max races to Sol's apartment to explain his



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