Calculus

PARIS: I said, I’m not taking AP Calculus from Henemen.

Calculus, is a branch of mathematics focused on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. This subject constitutes a major part of contemporary mathematics education. It has widespread applications in science, economics, and engineering.

In Season 1, Rory implied she was studying Trigonometry, usually part of pre-calculus mathematics courses. Most likely, she is now preparing to take AP Calculus in her senior year.

John Nash

RORY: That diploma hanging on the wall is going to make this all worthwhile, trust me.

LORELAI: I guess, unless I turn into John Nash and start drooling on people.

John Nash (1928-2015), mathematician who made fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry, and the study of partial differential equations. His theories are widely used in economics. Nash is the only person to win both the Abel Prize and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Sciences.

In 1958, Nash began showing clear signs of mental illness and spent several years in psychiatric hospitals being treated for schizophrenia. His condition slowly improved in the 1970s, allowing him a return to academic work by the mid 1980s.

John Nash’s struggles with mental illness and his recovery were highlighted in the 2001 biographical film, A Beautiful Mind, directed by Ron Howard and based on the 1997 best-selling Pulitzer-winning biography of the same name by Sylvia Naser, with Russell Crowe starring as Nash. A Beautiful Mind was a commercial and critical success, winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Tornado

TAYLOR: That boy [Jess] is a walking natural disaster, they should name a tornado after him.

Tornadoes don’t receive personal names, that’s only for hurricanes and tropical cyclones. There has never been a Hurricane Jess, or Tropical Cyclone Jess.

The reference to tornadoes is yet another allusion to The Wizard of Oz [pictured], because it was a tornado that carried Dorothy to the Land of Oz. A possible hint that Jess could provide a gateway to another world for Rory.

Einstein

LUKE: Believe me, I’m the Einstein of the clan.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics – relativity and quantum mechanics are the two pillars of modern physics.

His intellectual achievements and originality resulted in the name “Einstein” becoming synonymous with the word “genius”, so that Luke is saying that he is the genius of his family. In fact, Jess looks to be the genius of the family we know so far, and in a future season, Luke will meet a previously unknown relative who appears to be the real family genius.

Rory’s Books from the Buy a Book Fundraiser

Rory buys several books at the fundraiser, but only a couple of the titles are visible. Gypsy the mechanic is volunteering her time to work at the fundraiser, and she points Rory to the astronomy section, as if Rory has an interest in this area, and Gypsy somehow knows about it. Both quite surprising things to learn! The Buy a Book Fundraiser is held outside the library, and may be raising funds for new books.

Inherit the Wind

A 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, fictionalising the events of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. This was a legal trial in July 1925 where schoolteacher John Scopes was taken to court by the state of Tennessee for teaching human evolution. There was intense media scrutiny of the case, with publicity given to the high-profile lawyers who had taken the case. The prosecution had former Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, while Clarence Darrow defended Scopes – the same lawyer who had defended child murders Leopold and Loeb, previously discussed. Scopes was fined $100, but the case was overturned on a technicality. The case was seen as both a theological contest, and a test as to whether teachers could teach modern science in schools.

The play gives everyone involved in the Scopes Trial different names, and substantially alters numerous events. It is not meant to be a historical account, and is a means to discuss the McCarthy trials of the 1950s, where left-wing individuals were persecuted as Communist sympathisers, under a regime of political repression and a fear-mongering campaign.

Rory might be particularly interested in the play because of the focus it places on the media, with reporter E.K. Hornbeck covering the case for a fictional Baltimore newspaper. He is based on journalist and author H.L. Mencken, previously discussed as one of Rory’s heroes, who gained attention for his satirical reporting on the Scopes Trial for the Baltimore Morning Herald.

Inherit the Wind premiered in Dallas in 1955 to rave reviews, and opened on Broadway a few months later with Paul Muni, Ed Begley, and Tony Randall in the cast. It’s been revived on Broadway in 1996 and in 2007, as well as in Philadelphia, London, Italy, and India.

It was adapted into film in 1960, directed by Stanley Kramer, and with Spencer Tracey starring as the defence lawyer, Dick York as the schoolteacher, and Gene Kelly as the Baltimore journalist. It received excellent reviews and won awards at the Berlin Film Festival. It’s also been made for television in 1966, 1988, and in 1999 (starring George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, and Beau Bridges). It seems likely that Rory watched the most recent version on television.

Letters to a Young Poet

A 1929 collection of ten letters written by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, to a young officer cadet named Franz Xaver Kappus at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt, Austria between 1902 and 1908.

Kappus had written to Rilke, seeking advice on the quality of his poetry, to help him choose between a literary career, or one as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Kappus had been reading Rilke’s poetry when he discovered that Rilke had earlier studied at the academy’s lower school in St. Pölten, and decided to write to him for advice.

Rilke gave Kappus very little criticism or suggestions on improving his writing, and said that nobody could advise him or make life decisions for him. Over the course of ten letters, he instead provided essays on how a poet should feel and seek truth in experiencing the world around him. They offer insights into Rilke’s poetic ideas and themes, and his work processes.

Kappus did meet Rilke at least once, and despite his concerns about pursuing a military career, he continued his studies and served for 15 years as an army officer. During the course of his life, he worked as a journalist and reporter, and wrote poems, stories, novels, and screenplays. However, he never achieved lasting fame.

This is a book which features a future journalist – but one who yearns to become a poet. Is it a sign that Rory secretly wishes she could become a creative writer instead? Is she hoping that being successful in journalism will help her become a published author (it’s definitely a help in getting novels published, or at least considered). Is it even a hint that she will become a writer in the future, as she does in A Year in the Life, but is not destined to become famous from her writing? (Most published writers, even quite successful ones, don’t get famous, after all).

And is this correspondence between a poet and a student at a military academy meant to suggest that Rory is still thinking of Tristan, who went away to military school? Are she and Tristan actually writing to each other, or is the show leaving the door open for Tristan to possibly return in a future season, since they didn’t know how long One Tree Hill was going to last?

“Waves get really still”

RORY: That was just my mom being funny.

LORELAI: Yeah, it comes and goes. You’ll learn to notice the signs.
CHRISTOPHER: The waves get really still, the animals start to act funny.

Christopher humorously compares Lorelai’s sense of humour to natural disasters, as if it is a force of nature. The waves of the sea become calm just before a storm hits, while animals are said to act strangely before an earthquake.

Nylon and DuPont

PARIS: And your servers are wearing nylon blend shirts, and nylon was invented by a scientist at Dupont in the 1920s. It shattered the illusion.

Paris isn’t quite correct. While the DuPont Experimental Station began their research into polymers in 1927, the first example of nylon was synthesised in 1935, by their leading chemist, Wallace Hume Carothers [pictured]. Sadly, Carothers, who suffered from depression and had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1936, committed suicide in 1937 by ingesting chemicals.

Rory and Lorelai Visit Harvard University

After examining the map, Lorelai surprises Rory by driving her to Harvard University, which is in the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts, part of the Boston metropolitan area. Why Rory didn’t think of it herself is really the big surprise in this scene – surely she knows where Harvard is, and wouldn’t she have been begging her mother to take her there? Apparently not, as they get all the way to the front gates before Rory seems to realise where they are.

Rory wants to get a guide to the university – Harvard offers free one-hour guided group tours of its campus, given by students. Lorelai opts for the self-guided tour: you can navigate yourself around the university with the help of a brochure. Rory already knows the foundation date of Harvard (1636) by heart.

Lorelai reads about important scientific discoveries made at Harvard. The idea for the pacemaker was first originated by John Alexander McWilliam from Aberdeen University in 1889, while the first pacemaker was devised by Mark C. Lidwill from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Edgar H. Booth from the University of Sydney in 1926. The brochure is probably talking about Paul Zoll (1911-1999) from Harvard Medical School, one of many who helped develop and refine the pacemaker during the 1940s and ’50s.

The other scientific advances mentioned seem to be referring to Sheldon Glashow (born 1932), a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who is a Professor of Physics at Harvard University. In 1964, in colloboration with James Bjorken, he was the first to propose the existence of the charm quark, which helped to solve a number of problems in quantum field theory. In 1973, in colloboration with Howard Georgi, he proposed the first grand unifed theory, a model in which the interactions of electromagnetism, radioactivity, and nuclear forces are merged into one single force.

Lorelai is disturbed to see that out of 18 000 applicants to Harvard in the previous year, only 2000 were accepted. It’s a piece of news she should already know by now, and comes as a stiff reality check. Possibly for the first time, Lorelai gets an inkling that Rory’s dream of going to Harvard may be out of reach. The odds are even worse now – although Harvard still accept around 2000 students per year, nearly 40 000 applied to graduate in the year of 2022.

The scenes of Harvard were filmed at the University of California, Los Angeles campus in Westwood, which doesn’t resemble Harvard University. The front gates that Rory and Lorelai enter were made for the show.

Stephen Hawking

DEAN: I’m not great in Math.
LORELAI: Yeah, except who is really? You know, except mathematicians, or the blackjack dealers, or I guess Stephen Hawking doesn’t suck, but you know…

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) was an English physicist, cosmologist, author, director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. Apart from his ground-breaking work in cosmology and quantum physics, he was the author of several popular science books – his 1988 book A Brief History of Time was on the best-seller lists for almost a year.

Not only the possessor of a brilliant mind and a noted wit, Stephen Hawking became a globally recognised pop culture icon, and the world’s best known living scientist. It is an incredible understatement for Lorelai to say that he “didn’t suck” at mathematics.