The Corner

Re: Futurama

Jonah: That is a retread of one of the hoariest old math anecdotes. Srinivasa Ramanujan (great Indian mathematician) was dying of TB in a hospital, and G.H. Hardy (great English mathematician) went to visit him. At a loss for a conversational opening, Hardy remarked at random that the license number of the taxi he’d ridden in was 1729, and that this seemed a pretty nondescript number. Ramanujan: “On the contrary, my dear Hardy! That is a most interesting number! It is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in more than one way!”

It’s one cubed plus twelve cubed, and also nine cubed plus ten cubed, see?

For more on Ramanujan, see Robert Kanigel’s excellent book about him. For more about Hardy, see my own Prime Obsession.

The high point of my TV career remains that episode of Jimmy Neutron where Jimmy and Carl, fleeing for their lives from a man-eating lima bean, exchange some remarks about the Riemann Hypothesis, stating the noble conjecture in precisely the words I use in my book. That is sufficient glory, and I rest serene.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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