The Oxford Murders

The Oxford MurdersI decided to see the film The Oxford Murders

At the core of the movie are sequences of numbers and symbols. When the characters started a discussion about how to continue a sequence, I immediately tensed up. Why? Because when people ask what the next element in the sequence is, I get ready to confront them, by explaining that there are many ways to continue a sequence. For example, the sequence — 1, 2, 4 — could be powers of two, or could be Tribonacci numbers, or any of 10,000 sequences that the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences spills out if you plug in 1, 2, 4. That is, if we do not count the infinity of sequences that are not in the Encyclopedia.

To my surprise and relief, the logic Professor, one of the main characters in the movie, explained that there is no unique way to continue a sequence. From that moment on, I relaxed and fell in love with the movie.

The movie is a detective story with a lot of twists and turns. The crimes are related to symbols. The first two symbols are in the picture below. Can you guess the next symbol?

The Oxford Murders Sequence

I cannot. There is an irony in the film at this point, because the Professor and the student need to guess the sequence in order to solve the crimes. But the Professor has already explained that there is no unique way to continue. So illogical for a movie about logic.

And what’s worse, the sequence of symbols they finally discover doesn’t make sense. I guess I fell in love with this movie too quickly.

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5 Comments

  1. Sue VanHattum:

    If the clues relate to a murder mystery, I’d expect psychological connections to be involved. A good detective would be thinking about what the criminal might have in mind. I don’t know if the next symbol made sense in that way, but that’s how I’d write it…

    My first thought is that the two semicircles are moving past one another, so the next would look like a curvy x.

  2. Animesh:

    Maybe it’s in 3D and we are just changing perspective!

  3. Vishal:

    One possibility for the next symbol is: )(

    The circle is cut in half, and then the halves are moving in the opposite direction. At the first step, they are midway through the diameter (hence they intersect). And the next step is they move all the way across the diameter, so their intersection is a point (think if the mirror image of C adjacent to another C.)

  4. Euler'sIdentityCrisis:

    I know I’m late to the discussion, but I can’t help but throw in my guess at the next part of the sequence. I looked at it and immediately saw that the circle had been bisected and that the two resulting halves were superimposed on each other, but otherwise remained oriented as they had been when the circle was whole. So the next in the sequence would just be to cut the second image in half vertically and lay the resulting halves one on top of the other. Each successive object in the sequence is half as wide as its precursor. There will be 4 new end points sticking out to the right and left with each pass and the pointed oval (sideways eye) shape in the center will shrink vertically and horizontally. As for the movie, I’m glad I read this. I might have just passed it by otherwise, but a murder mystery with math geeks in the leading roles sounds too good to pass up. :)

  5. Euler'sIdentityCrisis:

    I know I’m late to the discussion, but I can’t help but throw in my guess at the next part of the sequence. I looked at it and immediately saw that the circle had been bisected and that the two resulting halves were superimposed on each other, but otherwise remained oriented as they had been when the circle was whole. So the next in the sequence would just be to cut the second image in half vertically and lay the resulting halves one on top of the other. Each successive object in the sequence is half as wide as its precursor. There will be 4 new end points sticking out to the right and left with each pass and the pointed oval (sideways eye) shape in the center will shrink vertically and horizontally. As for the movie, I’m glad I read this. I might have just passed it by otherwise, but a murder mystery with math geeks in the leading roles sounds too good to pass up. :)
    (Sorry if this is a double post – I don’t see my comment nor did I see a note saying it was pending moderation).