Tuesday, February 8, 2011


This is not a misspelling (though my spelling has always been a little bit suspect). It's a profound thought.

Gauss and Pascal are our kittens. They behave much as I imagine the original famous old mathematicians would have done. In other words:

They poke their noses into everything!

My favourite story about Herr Gauss (original) is probably entirely urban legend. I have not verified it, and if you know it to be false please keep that to yourself. It's a wonderful story.

So when he's about 8 or 9 (maybe 10, let's stretch a point) Gauss is sitting in his Maths class. As usual, he's completed all his work. And his homework. And the next day's homework. And his poor teacher is going crazy, probably partially because Gauss is pulling Heidi's hair and throwing thumbtacks at Kurt.

Finally, the teacher tells Gauss that his next assignment (I expect he was told to complete it before he went out to break) was calculate the sum of the first 100 natural numbers.

So, being eager to get to his bratwurst sandwich before Kurt stole it, Gauss does just that. Except, as he's a lazy little brat who doesn't feel like taking the long way round, he invents and proves a formula for calculating the sum of any arithmetic series.

No, I don't think you were paying sufficient attention: he proved the formula for calculating the sum of any arithmetic series.

The same elegant, easy-peasy-once-you-see-how-to-do-it proof that we use today...

Long live curiosity!

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