Wiskunde kennen kan je leven redden

Met nieuwjaar kreeg ik van mijn zus het boek 100 essential things you didn’t know you didn’t know van wiskundige John D. Barrow cadeau. De 100 hoofdstukken zijn heel kort en geven je een anekdote of korte uitleg van iets wiskundigs. Er staan heel wat leuke weetjes in, en het leukste tot nu toe (ik zit in de helft) is een anekdote over de Russische wiskundige Igor Tamm:

In the Russian revolutionary period, Tamm was a young professor teaching physics at the University of Odessa in the Ukraine. Food was in short supply in the city, and so he made a trip to a nearby village, which was under the apparent control of the communists, in an attempt to trade some silver spoons for something more edible, like chickens. Suddenly, the village was captured by an anti-communist bandit leader and his militia, armed with rifles and explosives. The bandits were suspicious of Tamm, who was dressed in city clothes, and took him to their leader, who demanded to know who he was and what he did. Tamm tried to explain that he was merely a university professor looking for food.
‘What kind of professor?’ the bandit leader asked.
‘I teach mathematics,’ Tamm replied.
‘Mathematics?’ said the bandit. ‘All right! Then give me an estimate of the error one makes by cutting off Maclaurin’s series at the nth term. Do this and you will go free. Fail, and you will be shot!’
Tamm was not a little astonished. At gunpoint, somewhat nervously, he managed to work out the answer to the problem – a tricky piece of mathematics that students are thaught in their first course of calculus in a university degree course of mathematics. He showed it to the bandit leader, who perused it and declared ‘Correct! Go home!’
Tamm never discovered who that strange bandit leader was. He probably ended up in charge of university quality assurance somewhere.

Comments

  1. IonicaNo Gravatar" onclick="javascript:urchinTracker( wrote:

    Wow! Deze anekdote hoorde ik jaren geleden in sterk aangepaste versie en ik probeerde al tijden te ontdekken wie de wiskundige was en wat hij moest laten zien aan de bendeleider. Eindelijk weet ik het! Dat boek ga ik zeker kopen.

  2. Koen VervloesemNo Gravatar" onclick="javascript:urchinTracker( wrote:

    Ja je gaat het boek echt leuk vinden, het is heel verfrissend, met heel wat weetjes die ik inderdaad niet wist :-)

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