Is Charlie Eppes (Numb3rs) plausible?

On the TV series Numb3rs, Charlie Eppes is portrayed as not only an expert in applied mathematics, but also appears to be an expert in theoretical physics, biology, electronics, computer programming, robotics, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and all sorts of other scientific and academic fields, all accessible at a moment’s notice.

Artistic license granted, and of course I’m aware that many of these fields have a lot of overlap, but is it plausible for a person to have the amount of wide-ranging expertise Charlie Eppes appears to possess?

I haven’t seen the show. No doubt it’s an exaggeration for effect, but there are lots of overlap in lots of those fields. If you studied physics and went into the robotics field you probably know a bit about applied math, physics, electronics, programming, and robotics. That wouldn’t be weird at all, but being an expert in all of them would be.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the show, but I have the impression that it wasn’t exactly rigorous in its adherence to reality.

But, hey, it’s TV, and of course you already knew that.

So, artistic license aside, I remember that Charlie’s expertise was in mathematics, which gave him insight into just about any field of study which involved math, but he didn’t necessarily express any depth of knowledge of these other fields much beyond how whatever neat math trick he was demonstrating applied to the problem to be solved. Thus, while I doubt the show can really be called plausible under a harsh light, it’s not quite as wacky as if he knew everything about everything.

Upon review, I’ll backpedal a little bit and say that the character does also have that superpower all scientists and other brains in just about every TV show have: at least a passing knowledge of absolutely every field of study the writers want to reference on the show. So, mathematical insight, plus the typical all-knowing scientist thing allow Charlie to relate to just about anything that comes up on the show, but he’s not likely to win any major prizes outside of math (or maybe comp sci - I don’t recall how much of his own programming he did).

I agree that he mostly just had mathematical insight to whatever problem was at hand. I remember taking an undergraduate applied mathematics course, and there was indeed equations practical to sociology, economics, etc. The only real problem I had with it was that, a lot of times, his conclusion was really just what should have been common sense to the FBI agents.

However, the OP’s question reminds me of my love for MacGyver back in the day. Apparently, the main science advisor behind the show was a gemologist who had a broad knowledge of scientific knowledge. Looking into it made me think that gemology would indeed encompass such things as optics, geology, chemistry, and probably some engineering as well, but probably not to the extent MacGyver was able to utilize that knowledge.

I don’t feel like Charlie’s knowledge is portrayed as all accessible at a moment’s notice. When a case involved a specific sphere of knowledge, Charlie would tend to do a lot of research on that topic, going online, reading scientific papers, consulting colleagues, etc. The impression I got was that he was a genius who could easily synthesize information and distill it into mathematical terms, but not that he had an incredible range of knowledge in his head.

A lot of his spur of the moment examples and explanations came from his classes – they were examples that he had used to teach his students.

I assumed he also had a degree in English, considering the number of times someone says to him “Whoa, say that again in English.”

Those scenes became much funnier to me when I learned that Dylan Bruno (the actor who plays Colby Granger) has an engineering degree from MIT. So he’s probably the only one with any real understanding of the math in the script, including the guy with those lines, and yet he plays the dumb hick.

Man, I miss that show. It was formulaic and strained credulity a fair amount but it was one of my favorites.