Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Math NAMES

(A quick note: Howard Karloff is organizing an excursion to the South Pacific during SODA. Sign up by November 3.)

And now for todays post:

What do the names Pascal, Hilbert and Mittag-Leffler have in common, aside from all being names of math folks?

I have AN answer in mind. You may very well give me other ones. I'll be curious if anyone give me the one I had in mind.

1. They're all also names of specific matrices? (Not sure about Mittag-Leffler, but the others certainly are.)

2. err.. south pacific seems to be the name of a broadway show. its not -the- south pacific!

3. They are all names of characters in the movie Stranger Than Fiction.

I'm not sure why the movie had people with math names, though. (Looking at Wikipedia, I see there were others, like the Kronecker bus and Euclid street.)
For all its strangeness, it was a good movie, to be sure :-)

4. All three asked famous questions / offered famous prizes. (Hilbert's problems, Pascal offered a prize for the resolution about the "quadrature of a cycloid", whatever that is. And something on Google Books says that Mittag-Leffler offered a prize relating to something or other.)

Hilbert and Pascal seem to have thought at least some about "what is a proof?"

5. Let's see: Two out of three give names to programming languages: Pascal and ML.

6. All four (!) names contain exactly 2 vowels.

7. Perhaps it is not what you had in mind, but all three give interesting results if you type the phrase "(name) curve" into Google Image.

In particular, I had never encountered the "Mittag-Leffler Star" before.

As for the Hilbert Curve ... heck, a Kählerian tensor network version of it adorns the first page of pretty much all of our QSE Group's recent technical documents.

8. As a followup to the above, my literary-minded son confirms that Shreevata's answer ... that all three are characters in Stranger than Fiction ... is indeed the natural and correct answer.

Amazingly to me, my son solved the puzzle instantly ... evidently Stranger than Fiction left a considerable impression upon him (so I'm going to rent it).

Acknowledging that the above literary answer is best, an (almost) equally good mathematics-centric answer is that "The Pascal triangle, the Hilbert curve, and the Mittag-Leffler star are all Wikipedia pages about geometric objects."

9. I know! I know!

If you Google for all three of them, you get a link to this blog!