Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Thought 15 and Number 1729

For anyone who has come to these thoughts late, and hasn't gone back to the beginning, I am trying to offer a series of reflections which engage with those who experience the world by numbers more than by words. If you make dull periods of time pass quicker by finding things to count; if you play the Countdown number game using hymn-boards or if you love finding patterns in the day, week, month, year (like that) then these might be more helpful to you than for people who consider themselves wordily normal and you weird.

It is the third Sunday in Advent. On this day I am happy to be an outsider to a strange debate about the colour of candles which break out around the Christian world. Not experienced it? Google 'pink candle', 'gaudete candle' or 'Mary candle'. It's a forest fire out there. Wax meltingkly hot.

My church tends to save its smirk for next week when an outbreak of the two Ronnies infects the lighting of candle four.

I used to annoy my children. It is because I pretended to be a great mathematician but really was only good at remembering numbers. When an interesting number came up such as:

147 or 180 I would  note that they were the maximum break in snooker or score in darts with three arrers.

Slightly more obscure was a knowledge of  'squares'.

'625, that's 25 squared. Everyone knows that.' Son looks baffled.

I taught anyone who would listen a short cut to the 11 times table.

If any member of my family had cared they would have become the mathematician I never got the chance to be. As it happens the boys channelled their energies into my other loves - music and words. They also picked up excellent social skills due to the strength of their mother's personality and genetic material. Today both also have to be numerate for a living in divers ways. I digress.

So why 1729? It's the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways. Sometimes called Ramanujan's number.


And it makes me stop in my tracks and want to hope and pray more than a sunrise, a painting or even (and this is going some) the sight of a puppy.

My life is brilliant
My love is pure

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