Monday, April 07, 2003

Math Riots Prove Fun Incalculable

My post on Fermat's last theorem last week reminded me of my personal all-time favorite math parody, a Chicago Tribune column written by Eric Zorn.
Zorn, grandson of the mathematician Max Zorn, wrote this column that put Wiles' proof of Fermat in a context of the Chicago Bulls basketball team winning a recent championship. I was in the CS department at the University of Chicago during that time and the parallels hit home for me: "Andrew Wiles" = "Michael Jordan", "Yoichi Miyaoka" = "Charles Barkley", "Rie-Peat" = "Three-peat", "Doing set theory in a New Jersey library" = "Gambling in Atlantic City", etc. You get the picture.
Or maybe you had to be there. After this article made the email rounds, one European professor asked me if there really were graduate students rioting in Chicago. Go figure.