View Full Version : Q. for academic Dopers: The thing with the pens in "A Beautiful Mind"

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
09-23-2002, 09:56 AM
You know how in the movie, towards the end, everyone gives Russell Crowe a pen as a sort of tribute to his achievement. For those dopers in academe, do they do this in your department at your university? Is it just a Princeton or East Coast thing? Or is it pretty much everywhere?

09-23-2002, 11:38 AM
This site (http://swarthmore.edu/bulletin/june02/bayer.html) claims that the pen scene is complete fiction.

Can anyone confirm/deny?

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
09-23-2002, 02:27 PM
I looked at the link, and the statement that the pen scene is fictional certainly implies that it didn't happen as shown in the film, but it says nothing about whether the custom exists.

On an unrelated note, I thought it was interesting that one of his alternate personalities was a humanities scholar. An interesting contrast in many ways.

Dewey Cheatem Undhow
09-23-2002, 03:29 PM
Straight from Princeton U, the pen ceremony is fake (http://princeton.edu/mudd/news/faq/nash.shtml).In the movie A Beautiful Mind there is a scene in which faculty members present their pens to John Nash. What is the origin of the pen ceremony? When did it start?

The scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind in which mathematics professors ritualistically present pens to Nash was completely fabricated in Hollywood. No such custom exists. What it symbolizes is that Nash was accepted and recognized in the mathematics community for his accomplishments, in the same way that the old professor was recognized early in the movie when Nash was a young man. While some movies are based on books, the film A Beautiful Mind states that it was inspired by the life of John Nash. There are many discrepancies between the book and the film.For the math-inclined, a copy of Nash's dissertation is available from that link in PDF as well.

Wendell Wagner
09-23-2002, 10:49 PM
javaman writes:

> On an unrelated note, I thought it was interesting that one of
> his alternate personalities was a humanities scholar.

Like nearly everything else in the film, that was completely made-up. Nash didn't have any visual hallucinations.

Dewey Cheatem Undhow
09-24-2002, 11:24 AM
Wendall: What form did they take?

09-24-2002, 12:59 PM
The hallucinations John Nash had/and still experiences are auditory in his mind/head. He never had visual hallucinations.
He hasn't taking medication since the 70's, he said he kind of willed himself better, logical thinking is what he says.

I went to a lecture John Nash held in Philadelphia in April, and he discussed aspects of the movie vs. the book and his life.

I did love the movie and the book, seeing and listening to Dr. Nash was really interesting. It was very cool to see and hear Dr. Nash, the movie had Russell Crowe look and sound very much like the man protrayed in the movie.

Wendell Wagner
09-24-2002, 10:55 PM
Nash's schizophrenia began in 1959, after he had been teaching at MIT for several years (and *not* while he was still in grad school at Princeton). Although there were some auditory hallucinations, mostly his schizophrenia consisted of his creation of grand conspiracy theories. In other words, it wasn't so much that he saw or heard anything different than anyone else, it was that he interpreted things differently than other people. Imagine being trapped in an Oliver Stone movie, where everyone is plotting against you.

After almost 30 years of schizophrenia, Nash slowly recovered in the '80's. He claims that he did it by will power. Psychologists now believe that about 25% of schizophrenics will recover spontaneously. In their late middle age they will get better without any drugs or other treatment. There's no more explanation for this than there is for why people become schizophrenic (usually in their late teens or early twenties).

Nash looks a little like Russell Crowe, but he's not as muscular as Crowe.

09-24-2002, 11:12 PM
Wendell Wagner noted in another thread that he'd asked a mathematician from Princeton about the alleged "tradition" and the mathematician had never heard of it:


Remember, "Based on a True Story" is just Hollywood's way of saying "Almost Entirely Made-Up."

Speaker for the Dead
09-25-2002, 12:00 AM
I just have to say, every time I've read this thread title, I've seen it as "The things with the penis..." :eek:

Wendell Wagner
09-25-2002, 07:19 AM
I didn't express myself very well in the other thread. I've talked to mathematicians from all over, and I couldn't find any of them that had ever heard of the pen ritual. I talked to someone with a Ph.D. from Princeton (but not in math), and he hadn't heard of it either. But in any case, the quote in Dewey Cheatem Undhow's post from an official Princeton publication makes it clear that there is no such ritual, not at Princeton nor anywhere else.

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