And now the second of three parts of James Harris’s declaration to Usenet group sci.math, “So They Lied”. Rants were always good for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment; they had much of the energy of a really strident mental-hygiene film but were about even more ridiculous things than, like, whether you were brushing your teeth in the correct order.
I’m not sure there’s any riffs that need explaining here. Maybe just the note that Gauss was one of those spectacular once-in-a-century mathematicians. I think I’m more obscure in the last part. Oh, Fermat’s Little Theorem is this cute little thing. If p is a prime number, and a is a whole number, then is some whole multiple of p. It’s not hard to prove but it feels like it is, in Intro to Abstract Algebra, where you learn to do that stuff. It has nothing to do with Fermat’s Last Theorem.
I tend not to make riffs where the characters wish they weren’t reading the thing. I can’t get past how I-the-author don’t just choose to read the original but choose to go out of my way to focus on it. But Mike and the Bots offering to let Mr Harris, and them, do other stuff was too solidly in-character. Also, probably, good advice too. If you’re getting very worked up about your revolutionary new concept in number theory and arguing about it online, you maybe need to do something else until you find the part where your work wasn’t as correct as you had supposed.
> Trouble is, the worst thing for people faking at being mathematicians
> is someone who actually is a mathematician.
TOM: The second-worst thing is being caught by a cop for
differentiating in public.
> So they beat up such people,
CROW: [ Snickering ]
MIKE: Yeah, my Freshman Calc TA could beat up … well …
TOM: The other Freshman Calc TA?
> force them out of the discipline,
CROW: Turn their backs and go “nyah nyah nyah I can’t hear you”!
> drown them out with crowd forces.
TOM: Challenge them to sword fights with their old slide rules!
> Their loophole was the reality that major mathematicians only come
> around once every couple of hundred years,
CROW: Everybody, look busy, Gauss is coming through!
> so they got away with it for
> a bit over a hundred years,
MIKE: Makes it sound like a pretty good deal, actually.
> and I was forced into my destiny.
TOM: I held aloft my magic sword, and said, “By the power of Greyskull” and then … well, nothing happened, and I felt kind of silly.
> If it were up to me, I’d be doing so many other things than this.
CROW: Well, don’t let us stop you.
MIKE: Hey, I’ve got some stuff to do if you need new projects.
> But it’s not up to me,
TOM: It’s up to my mom.
> I’m driven by some overwhelming force that makes
> me fight against these people pretending to be real mathematicians, and
> so, here we are.
MIKE: Don’t you see, what I’m trying to say is, will you marry me?
> The encryption system that they said was so powerful–because they’re
> not real mathematicians–is now, as I type this,
TOM: Pig Latin.
> broken. The world
> does not know this
CROW: Don’t tell it. You’ll just wreck its sleep.
> because the social forces are that strong, but
> eventually the truth will be known.
TOM: It will be whispered to David Duchovny, who won’t understand it.
> These people are people some of you admire and trust,
CROW: Real people. Salt of the earth types.
> who have sat
> back, for years now, clearly I think,
MIKE: In groups of, three words or, so.
> believing that social forces
> could stop someone like me.
TOM: Stopping *you*, or stopping someone who’s only *like* you?
> But mathematics is more than just a word.
CROW: It’s a whole kooky groovy far-out scene, man.
> The proof for those of you who hoped, believed, or just wanted to deny
> the truth is in that new factoring method,
MIKE: Identify the factors of fifteen in under three hours!
> which if the people you
> thought were mathematicians actually were, then they’d be talking about
> it everywhere, warning the world,
MIKE: THE NEW FACTORING METHOD IS HERE!
TOM: RUN TO YOUR DESIGNATED PRIME NUMBERS!
> excited about it, and working on
> solutions to protect OUR WORLD.
TOM: Or at least maybe save Delaware.
> But instead, they are quiet, leaving the doors open, leaving the world
CROW: We *just* can’t have nice things, can we?
> Leaving it possible for innocents to suffer or even die
> because they are not who they claim to be.
MIKE: Death by greatest common denominator!
> But I am.
TOM: You’re leaving the world vulnerable?
> The choice is yours. I can’t do it alone.
CROW: Funny how life changes, huh, guy fiddles around with Fermat’s Little Theorem, the hunter becomes the hunted, well, what’re you gonna do?
> These people will let civilization crumble. They will let terrorists
> and other criminals,
MIKE: And people who return library books late.
> or anyone who has the will and know-how to use the
> mathematics in an evil way,
TOM: Or who foolishly open up an evil parabola.
CROW: The cosecants of doom!
MIKE: The quadratic formula for MURDER!
> do it, without the world knowing because it
> trusts them because they are not who they claim to be.
CROW: It’s not even our world! It’s Mars, isn’t that the weirdest thing?
> You may die if you do nothing, and isn’t that fair?
TOM: We all have to die of something, you know, a heart attack, a car accident, being shot by the snipers of the worldwide mathematics conspiracy.
[ To conclude … ]