This is an APB to math student (or college teacher) readers who have easy
access to a good periodicals library.
Endnote 10 to Prime Obsession reads as follows: “Here is an example of
e turning up unexpectedly. Select a random number between 0 and 1. Now
select another and add it to the first. Keep doing this, piling on random
numbers. How many random numbers, on average, do you need to make the total
greater than 1? Answer: e.”
A math teacher emailed in to ask for a source for this. I was embarrassed
to admit I don’t have one. It is certainly true, as a few minutes with a
random number generator will convince you. But who discovered it? I’ve
been carrying it round in my head since college days — I suppose one of our
lecturers told us.
The only documentary reference I have been able to track down is in David
Wells’s Penguin Dictionary of Curious & Interesting Numbers, the entry for
e. Wells gives the following as his source: “MG v74 167.” I assume this
means page 167 of Volume 74 of the Mathematical Gazette, and I assume this
is the London MG (Wells is British), not the Massachusetts one, or the
Romanian one, or any other.
I have no easy access to a good math library. Could some obliging student
please look up the reference & give me title, author and date? Thanks!