"I would unabashedly
say it's based on Caltech,' Heuton said of the show's school. "Once
we decided that we wanted to do it in California, Caltech was an
obvious choice,' she said, adding that she and her husband, Falacci,
have great respect and affection for the small but prestigious institute.
Their series presents the idea that
numbers and logic can prove invaluable in detective work. Episodes
this season will tackle cases involving topics as diverse as disease
outbreaks and major train crashes.
Falacci and Heuton said although they
wanted to create a series about a mathematician, "it's very
much inspired by Richard Feynman.'
Lorden said Charlie's character is
a bit of a hero, "much the way that Caltech students felt about
Richard Feynman.' Charlie, like Caltech's celebrated Nobel laureate,
relies on his knowledge to figure out problems that stump others.
The show also looks at the FBI's increasing
utilization of math and scientific consultants since the 9/11 attacks,
Heuton said. A Los Angeles-based FBI special agent has worked as
a consultant to "NUMB3RS.'
For his part as a consultant, Lorden
has answered mathematical questions to inform the writer's scripts
and provided much of the show's visual, technical detail. When equations
appear overlaid on the screen or characters stand before whiteboards
filled with mathematical notes, chances are Lorden originally scribbled
But the show delves into more than
simple math problems, Lorden said. Writers have come to him with
questions "well beyond my domain of expertise,' he said.
That's bound to happen, Lorden said.
Mathematics can be applied to such a diverse range of problems,
"nobody in a modern- day math department would know about every
way that mathematics would be used.' The fact that the character
Charlie is able to use mathematics in all his cases "makes
him a supergenius,' Lorden said.
David Krumholtz, the actor who plays
Charlie, has thrown himself into the mathematical world. At least
twice so far, Krumholtz has been the one to locate mathematical
errors in the script, Lorden said.
Before one shoot, Krumholtz pointed
out that the number nine had erroneously been included in a list
of prime numbers in the script. Since prime numbers are those that
cannot be divided evenly by any whole number other than themselves
and one, nine is not prime.
"(Krumholtz) has gotten really
into the role in a serious way. ... He saved me from overlooking
something that would have been embarrassing in the script,' Lorden
Beyond mathematics, the Caltech professor
was able to give the writers insight into the lives of students
and professors on campus. He has a deeper understanding of such
things than many faculty members because he has served as Caltech's
dean of students and vice president for student affairs.
Although the show sometimes pokes fun
at the stereotype of mathematicians and physicists as a closely
circumscribed group of people, Lorden said the show portrays the
relationship between faculty and students fairly realistically.
As an acknowledgment of Caltech's role
in the series, a special advance preview screening of the first
episode will be shown in Beckman Auditorium on Jan. 10 beginning
at 8 p.m. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with
Marrow, Krumholtz, Heuton, Falacci and Lorden. The screening is
free and open to the public.
"NUMB3RS' premieres Sunday, Jan.
23, on CBS at 10 p.m. Later episodes will air Fridays at 10 p.m.