Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Whydunnit?

"... Therefore I must kill you"
[Photo of Norbert Weiner, who as far as I know didn't say the above, copyright RLE at MIT]



You will no doubt remember my post about "The Pythagorean Murders" by Tefkros Michaeledes.

No?

It was the one about the mathematicians who got reincarnated as beans.

I mentioned I'd started reading the book. Now I've finished it. I'm sure that you are all really eager to know what happens. Well, you might be, and I'd hate you to be lying on your deathbeds (hopefully many years from now), wondering.

I'm going to reveal the answer, so if you think that you're ever likely to read this book, read no further.

All still with me? Good. Actually if the book becomes available in English, or Spanish or whatever, I wouldn't recommend it. Stick with Agatha Christie.

Unfortunately, it wasn't really a "Whodunnit". After all, it's a mathematical murder mystery and the only person at all interested in maths apart from the victim (and Picasso, but I think we can discount him), is the narrator.

He even gets arrested, tried and found guilty (the narrator, not Picasso). All the evidence is against him. But he's freed on appeal, because they can't work out a possible motive for why he killed his best friend. His friend that he loved and had absolutely no wish to hurt.

Of course, the reason is to do with maths. His friend has been looking for a mechanical means to prove theorems. This, our hero realises, will take all of the fun out of the subject (do you remember the fun you had with maths at school?). His friend announces that he's solved the problem. Our hero has a look, can't find any flaw in his reasoning, and murders him so that maths will still be fun.

For some strange reason the police and the lawyers overlooked that motive. I thought of it on the second or third chapter, and decided that it was just too implausible. But then what would I know? I did train to be a maths teacher, but then saw sense.

So our "hero" gets released from prison, and goes home with the feeling that although he's killed his friend, it's for the greater good. Then he reads an article by Goedel in a maths journal. In it Goedel proves that the problem cannot be solved. So somewhere in the 15 pages crammed with equations his friend made a mistake. Our hero writes his confession and kills himself. The End.

So the victim was killed because of a mistake in his maths. Maybe he left out a minus sign or something. When your maths teacher was lecturing you about the importance of accuracy, perhaps that's what they meant...

35 comments:

Bee said...

FIRST!!

Bee said...

Good lord! And here I thought my Calculus professor was being a jag and in reality he was trying to… what? Save my life? I’m confused. If he didn’t always correct me and I found the answer to all the world’s problems via adding 12+7 he might have killed me! But he didn’t love me and we weren’t buds if anything the opposite since I’ve always been a smart ass pain in the rear… now I have a headache!
Thanks Brian!

Bee said...

Did I just make a mistake in my comment?
I think I did!
::sigh::

Brian o Vretanos said...

Yes, you did. The answer to the Ultimate Question is 42. Don't worry, I won't kill you either.

Bee said...

Question:
Did your professors think you were a smart-ass too?

Brian o Vretanos said...

It turned out that the victim was trying to do something that was impossible. But because he made a mistake, he thought he'd done it (the impossible thing). So the guy killed him. None of them knew it was impossible.

Later Goedel proved (with his "Incompleteness Theorem") that it was impossible. When the murder found this out, he killed himself.

Brian o Vretanos said...

Maybe the book should have been called "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Incompleteness Theorem" ;-)

Bee said...

Or! Maybe it shouldn't have been written at all!

Jean Knee said...

and here I thought that bean post was complete? go figure.


It would be a true trajedy if math were any less fun

Bee's Calculus Professor said...

Bee was the bestest student ever!!

Bee said...

Dang it!
11th!!

Brian o Vretanos said...

Bugger. I deleted one of my comments to make you 10th, but of course you've got two in a row, so it didn't work!

Bee said...

BRIAN YOU ARE A CHEATER!!
You can't cheat math! Don't you know this??

Bee said...

BTW, it always makes me giggle when people say "bugger".

Jean Knee said...

as in go bugger yourself? what does it really mean?

Jean Knee said...

I once almost had to kill Jean-Uh when she wanted to make marching band practice less fun by actually going to it.

she don't know how lucky she is

Dan said...

what's up with the 11th thing ?
I feel left out

Bee said...

The orgins of 11th:
A long time ago (last week) jean knee posted something and I didn't find out until the next day. Instead of being first I was 11th.
Now my goal in life (sad, I know) is to be 11th if I can't be first. If I'm both, it's extra special!

The end!

Brian o Vretanos said...

Jean Knee:

It's an incredibly common and useful word in British English. It's not generally offensive.

Examples:

Bugger! [Drat!]

Bugger off! [Piss off!]

You dozy bugger! [You prat!]

They've buggered it up. [They've mucked it up]

It's a real bugger to get right. [It's really awkward to get right]

Helena doesn't consider "bugger" swearing, unlike "Shit".

Dan said...

oooooohhhh

Bee said...

Question:
Do you sometimes screw up and say "Booger"?

Brian o Vretanos said...

"Booger" is an American word, not used here at all.

Bee said...

Huh??? Huh??? Are you serious??? But... that's a very important word! Very important!

Bee said...

"Andy, will you stop being a booger and let Mocha down!"

"No thank you, I do not want to go to Booger King"

"Blech! That adhesive felt like boogers!"

Just 3 examples.

Tracy said...

I've never been very good with math. I did well enough to make it through high school and eek through college and that's the limit to my experiences. But, after reading this post, I will never try to solve another math problem again for fear of losing my life. Thank you Brian for giving me an excuse!

Tracy said...

Speaking of bugger. I've always claimed that I'm going to move to England and therefor needed to practice my English terms. So I used to tell people to call me on the telly but then my friend Duchess Maude, who's father is from England, told me that that meant I was telling people to call me on the television. Is that true? I can't tell you how many people I said that to.

Brian o Vretanos said...

Tracy:

Don't worry, it's only fiction. Although the book does "claim" that a n Ancient Greek mathematician was murdered by the Pythagoreans for uncovering another "terrible" mathematical fact, that's supposition. Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier because he was solving a geometry problem and refused to stop when asked.

Other than that, mathematicians are noted for their longevity (in fact Archimedes was in his 70s). Early deaths, such as Gauss in a duel, are rare, and that was over a woman - nothing to do with maths.

I think that Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (made famous by Tom Lehrer's song) died young because he was a soldier.

Telly is only used here to refer to TV, so your friend is absolutely correct.

Bee said...

Brian, okay you win.

Jean Knee said...

then what do you blokes call boogers??

dried up snot wads?

Brian o Vretanos said...

We call them bogies. Not to be confused with the railway bogies. I can't remember what they are, but any trainspotter would know.

Bee said...

Brian, I think you're making words up and that's just a shame seeing as how the English language has enough already!

You have to have a license for making words up and I'm not sharing mine.

Brian o Vretanos said...

I put that wiktionary link in specially for you and you don't use it ;-)

From said reference:

"(UK) A piece of solid or semisolid mucus in or removed from the nostril."

There's a skill to making up new words, and it's something I just don't have.

Brian o Vretanos said...

33rd! Three times as good as Bee!

Bee said...

I only look up big words and real words not bogus words like "bogie".

Jean Knee said...

bogie is a golf term