CS190N/CS290N -- Introduction to Superheroics: A Modern Approach

John Brevik and Rich Wolski

Winter 2006


CS190N/CS290N Links of Meaning

Course Materials


The goal for this course is to consider various mathematical and statisitcal problem solving techniques evinced in the television series Numb3rs (CBS, Friday nights, 10:00 PM) with an an emphasis on their implementation and application. Conveniently, the program both poses a number of tractable analytic and inferential problems, and presents solutions in the form of crime-solving contributions made by the protagonist "Charlie" (who is possessed of unusual mathematical ability) to a weekly FBI investigation led by his brother "Don." Our intention is to review selected episodes, illuminate the techniques that are presented, formulate the relevant problems, and compare the solutions that result from these formulations to the ones developed by Charlie.


Many of the crime-solving approaches Charlie takes are, fundamentally, hinge upon solutions to problems in applied statistical inference. Thus, the prerequisites for the course are an introductory probability-and-statistics course (PSTAT 120A or equivalent) and engineering calculus. In addition, basic programming skills (in any language capable of floating point computation) will be required to implement numerical solutions to the problems posed as assignments. Finally, qualified students must be willing to watch excerpts from various episodes during class periods and also to use the World-wide Web as a tool for further study.

Course Requirements and Grading

Lectures in the course are designed to prepare the students to solve the crimes described in each episode under study. It is anticipated that between 4 and 6 crimes will be assigned during the course of the quarter in addition to a midterm and a final. Grading will roughly conform to the following proportions: In addition, the instructors will consider adding up to 10% to the grade of any student based on class participation. It should in no way be construed that these additional grade points will be automatically assigned in response to simple vocalizations generated during lecture, nor that the full 10% will be assigned in each case. This latter 10% will be assigned purely based on a subjective evaluation of each student's contributions to the general course environment by the instructors.

The exam schedule for the class is

There will be no make up exams and it will not be possible to administer either exam before its scheduled date.