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i have been intrigued for a while by the movie about a man named john nash. you may remember it is “a beautiful mind” and starring our own russel crowe. it seems this john nash as well as being schizophrenic,was a pretty smart mathematically. a flawed genius something like perth’s own david helfgott, made famous in another oscar winning performance in “shine” by that old pirate, geoffery rush. (russel, of course, was robbed).
nash was interested in a branch of mathematics called game theory. down under, our own abc has a presenter, robin williams, who often mentions john nash and his contribution to game theory and how it applies to science, especially biological science.
around about the time of world war 2, john von neuman, nobel laureate etc and oskar morgenstern came up with game theory, based on two players. typified by the famous prisoners dilemma.
now what nash did was expand it to show how to predict the best outcome when more than two players were involved.
nash’s did his ph d thesis on this and it was allegedly only sixteen pages long ! that was enough to get him a phd and a nobel prize later.
game theory has many applications. in the movie thirteen days, president kennedy is shown dealing with kruschev using a “new language”. nash and the boys were in the back room seeing if game theory really worked. if they had been wrong, the us would have been toast. that glowed in the dark.
darwin’s natural selection can be explained in terms of game theory, richard dawkin’s book “the selfish gene”, world trade, strategy in war, seems like almost anything. the fact nash was schizophrenic for me was just a minor distraction as to what he actually did. a point, i believe, made at the end of the movie.
now, as the vocabulary of game theory, words like “the bottom line” and “zero sum game” have even crept into out current prime minster’s patter and game theory concepts are often presented on the tv show “num3ers”. i wonder why it is i have never heard of this in schools. if we can teach genetics using the same sorts of punnet squares as see in the prisoners dilemma problem, and it is so important, how come it doesn’t appear somewhere in our curriculum ?