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Finally, the third episode the author discusses is based on the autobiographical thoughts of the French mathematician Alexander Grothendieck.

The author analyzes an excerpt from a letter to discuss the importance of mystical meditation and vision for Grothendieck. All three instances give a central role to the act of naming and the author suggests further theological and mathematical investigations of the naming process.

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Catalog Record: Mysticism in modern mathematics | HathiTrust Digital Library

India made another contribution to world culture as well as zero: the idea of nirvana, the transcendent state of "nothingness", when you are liberated from suffering and desires. In fact, the word used in philosophical texts to mean nothing, or the void, is "shunya", the same word later used to mean zero. For George Gheverghese Joseph, a maths historian at the University of Manchester, the invention of zero happened when an unknown Indian mathematician about two thousand years realized that "this philosophical and cultural concept would also be useful in a mathematical sense.

Renu Jain, professor of mathematics at Jiwaji University in Gwalior, was my guide at the temple.

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She agreed that Indian ideas of spiritual nothingness led to mathematical zero. But in India it was derived from the concept of shunya.

Nirvana by Numbers

Shunya means a sort of salvation," she said. In the modern world it is common to see religion and science as always in conflict. Yet in ancient India, one cannot untangle mathematics and mysticism.

Zero emerged as a result of spiritual as well as numeral thinking. What has India given to the world? With a computer powerful enough and with enough data we could, in theory, discover some of these patterns that are the key to understanding our world.

While the computer would admittedly have to be unfeasibly large, it is the real possibility that Max and his supercomputer could discover these patterns that captures our imagination and makes Pi so intriguing. The story escalates when a religious element is added to the equation.

The Historical Context for Modern Mathematics

During his daily visit to a coffee shop, Max meets a Hasidic Jew who studies the numerological analysis of the Torah by using Gematria - a practice that assigns numerical values to Hebrew words. He tells Max of his endeavour to unlock the code of the Torah, to uncover the true digit name for God.


Intrigued by this, Max runs computer analysis on the Torah. He generates the same digit number as before, then immediately passes out. Not only has Max discovered the key to stock prediction — he has uncovered the solution to understanding the name of God.