Sewall Wright on Numb3rs

1 minute read

Last year, the show had several anthro-related episodes, but this year it has been mostly network theory and the like. Until last night, when Sewall Wright was mentioned by name!

That's right, folks. US network drama. Friday night. Sewall Wright.


Why Sewall Wright? Well, our intrepid mathematician, Charlie, had to calculate the inbreeding coefficient for a monomaniacal polygamist cult leader. His pedigree for five generations or so was sewn into a quilt, and neither Charlie nor his attractive mathematician girlfriend knew what the symbols represented -- until Charlie's department chair, played by Kathy Najimy, for goodness sake, (who happened to be in Charlie's house because she is getting it on with Charlie's dad -- you know, Judd Hirsch -- recognized the pedigree symbols from cattle breeding!

Is this a great show, or what?

Of course, they followed that moment with some genetic nonsense about how the cult leader couldn't conceive with any of his highly related wives, so he had to have a particular unrelated female to mate with. I say, "nonsense," mainly because it was irrelevant to the plot, and didn't really convey a correct understanding of "recessive" alleles.

But how much can I ask for, really? Especially when I happened to be reading Sewall Wright at that very moment!