MiSTed: JSH: War of attrition (Part 3 of 3)


And now I close out this Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of the sci.math rant JSH: War of Attrition. I never did get around to other Harris rants; he was prolific in the mathematics newsgroup for years, arguing that he had great amazing new breakthroughs. The last and oddest that I remember is his bragging about his facility in describing what a tweet was in exactly 140 characters, this back when Twitter was limited to 140 characters. I don’t get it either.

The riff about donor type AB-elian puns on the blood type and on Abelian groups. Abelian groups are sets of things on which you can define an addition that commutes, just like regular arithmetic does. It’s possible to have additions that don’t commute, which is why it’s worth having a name for these. The closing sketch puts Professor Bobo in an example of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. It’s funny, yes, but it also challenges our intuitions about what probability means.


>
> Yeah only to use you in the Math Wars.

TOM: I need reserves in case a Tom Lehrer song breaks out.

> I want mathematicians around
> the world to keep thinking about what you are thinking.

CROW: I think that’s what I want to think I want you thinking about.

> I want them
> working hard to figure out how well they have you in hand.

MIKE: Touching and caressing you with loving grace.

>
> I want them working to keep you.

TOM: Make sure they call you daily to see how you’re doing.

>
> I want them to demean themselves, crawl on their hands and knees to
> keep you believing in them.

MIKE: To sit up on their nests and keep a bundle of chicken eggs warm.

>
> And they are doing it.

CROW: They’re the *best*, guys.

>
> While the war of attrition continues and it is all about inertia and
> momentum as I have always needed time.

MIKE: Time, and a bit of money, and — don’t ask why — my own Phillies Phanatic costume.

>
> If the world knew too quickly what my discoveries really are, then the
> true targets could have escaped,

CROW: Spooking the herd and causing a stampede from the watering hole.

> but now the net closes, and you are
> the fish that were always part of the trap.

TOM: I … don’t put fish in traps.

CROW: It’s for when you want to capture herring-eating mice.

>
> You were always the bait.

TOM: And I was the naughty sporting goods cashier … heh-heh-*heh*.

>
> They care so [ beep ] much about what you people think of them that they
> are willing to lose everything, grasping for what they cannot hold.

MIKE: Why don’t they just kiss you instead of talking you to death?

>
> Public opinion is such a great thing. I love it. Public opinion is
> all about perception.

CROW: Remember always to judge people by how you think your neighbors judge them.

>
> People like Andrew Wiles are nothing without the applause or the
> dreams of it.

TOM: Groupies gathered outside his door, women throwing panties
onto his Fermat’s Last Theorem galley sheets …

> They’ll hold on, and hold on, and hold on,

CROW: His needle’s stuck.

[ MIKE reaches up and “shoves” Mr Harris. ]

> and give
> their energy, their very life blood to hold on to it,

CROW: They’re donor type AB-elian positive.

> even if that is
> the means that is used to build the energy to end the wars.

MIKE: And with it RULE the WORLD!

>
> They give their life’s blood for you to believe in them.

TOM: So everyone in the audience, clap, clap as loud and as hard as you can and just maybe if we all believe enough we can save Dracula!

> And that is
> the energy that drives this forward.
>
> That is the hope of the world.

CROW: That hope, and a cuddly little bunny.

>
> It was always about time. I have always needed time.

MIKE: Time and my new … *LETTERS*!

TOM: He thought up an acronym and that’s enough for us?

>
>
> James Harris

TOM: Thank you, thank you, you’ve been a great crowd. Remember to tip your cows.

CROW: Waitresses.

TOM: Tip your waitresses’s cows.

>
>

MIKE: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL exit, as appropriate. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6.. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. TOM, MIKE, and CROW shake out their heads. ]

MIKE: I think after that we’ve all learned an important lesson.

TOM: And if you don’t want me to put you on the spot by asking what it was you’d better give me a quarter.

MIKE: What are you, Charlie McCarthy? I’m not afraid to explain it.

CROW: Ooh, ooh, ooh, I know, I know what that was all about, can I tell?

MIKE: Yes, yes, you may, Master Crow.

TOM: Fink.

CROW: [ Standing tall ] Ahem. Thank you and thank *you*.
[ TOM snorts. ] That was all about … *cats*. Thank you.

MIKE: [ Touching his shoulder. ] That was elegantly wrong, thank you.

[ AIRLOCK opens and closes. GYPSY enters. ]

MIKE: GYPSY! Hey, good to see you.

TOM: [ Simultaneously ] Gypsy’s back! Yay!

CROW: [ A second later ] Why not cats?

GYPSY: What is … likewise?

TOM: Um …

CROW: It’s been a madhouse without you.

GYPSY: What is … I’d imagined so?

[ MIKE buries his head in his hands. ]

TOM: Don’t say it … you’re suffering from the heartbreak of …

ALL: What is Trebekiasis?

[ MADS sign flashes; MIKE sticks out a hand enough to hit it. ]


[ CASTLE FORRESTER. BOBO is still in his bed, with a portable typewriter precariously perched on his stomach. The teddy bear is by the typewriter. Occasionally BOBO taps a key. PEARL FORRESTER watches over with blue pencil. OBSERVER is up front. ]

OBSERVER: And welcome back. As long as Professor Bobo’s incapacitated Pearl and I thought it would be a real kick to test out that bit about monkeys at typewriters producing the complete works of Shakespeare, so there you have it.

BOBO: You know, I’m fairly sure I am recovered.

PEARL: Type.

[ BOBO whimpers and then with a single finger hits one key, then another, then gets his fingers jammed between two keys, and whimpers again. ]

PEARL: This just … this isn’t working.

OBSERVER: No, not in the slightest.

PEARL: We need to throw more monkeys at the problem.

[ BOBO grunts while looking up? ]

OBSERVER: I’ll materialize the catapult. [ He walks off. ]

PEARL: [ Surprised, following ] Now that’s the kind of thinking
I want around here.

BOBO: [ Looking at the camera ] Uh-oh.

[ BOBO hides under the blanket, and after a pause, reaches his hand out to grab the teddy bear and pull it under. ]

                    | 
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                ----O----
                   /|\
                  / | \
                 /  |  \
                    |

This Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of the James S Harris post “War of Attrition” is done without the explicit permission of any of the many parties who should probably have given it, among them James S Harris, renowned citizen of sci.math; Best Brains Incorportated, renowned production company for Mystery Science Theater 3000; the fine legacy of game shows the world over; and in some unexplained but important fashion, Major League Baseball. No infringement on or challenge to any copyrights, trademarks, service marks, or anything else is intended nor should be inferred. This MiSTing as a whole is the creation of Joseph Nebus, who probably had more useful things to do with his time, but who is beginning to despair of Dr Mike Neylon ever returning. Thank you.

> The Math Wars are to me all about how some people with position and
> power forget the power of the pen, and sit letting the pot slowly come
> to a boil.


[ The End ]

MiSTed: JSH: War of attrition (Part 2 of 3)


Thanks for joining me for the second part of JSH: War of Attrition, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic based on James S Harris’s long-forgotten rant on Usenet group sci.math.

The riff about “Frishtory” references a recurring minor villain on Dave The Barbarian, a fun mid-2000s cartoon that like four people remember even counting people who were on its production staff. And I think that’s all that’s particularly baffling in this set of riffs. Other than that nobody remembers Dave The Barbarian.


>
> When I feel a bit down

MIKE: The clerk tells me to stop fondling pillows.

> –like if insulting posters start getting to me–

CROW: Sneaking in under the door while I whap with my flyswatter …

> I can do things like do Google searches on my open source project
> "Class Viewer" which took the number one spot for that search string,
> years ago.

TOM: After the original first-place holder was disqualified for steroid use.

>
> It is all over the world.

CROW: Did you see it waving at you?

> I especially feel honored looking at the
> Chinese page,

MIKE: Which was all Greek to me.

> where words I typed years ago to describe my project
> have been translated.

CROW: If I had typed the words on time they would have been transpunctualled.

>
> That is an odd feeling.

TOM: Like when you think your socks are inside-out.

> And that is just one thing.

MIKE: I have many odd feelings and look forward to sharing every one of them.

>
> Just a few days ago I started talking about a "managed copy" idea of
> mine

CROW: Copies include a full Dilbert’s boss.

> and just typing up a post on my blog I found myself talking about
> it as digital media equipment self-encryption and of course went to
> the initials to designate it DMESE.

MIKE: [ Starting dramatically ] DUN DUN … d … huh?

TOM: He’s … made an acronym? Who cares?

MIKE: Maybe he’s bragging he’s had the idea of initials?

CROW: Or he’s found a flaw in our whole system of letters?

TOM: [ Narrating ] With my new *letters*, words and even *acronyms* can be created even by the likes of foolish unworthy peasants such as *yourself*!

>
> That is just one more thing.

CROW: Funny feelings *and* he has a blog — can nothing stop this man?

>
> Archimedes said that with a level long enough and a place to stand he
> could move the world

MIKE: Sheesh, my dad can barely use the level and a place to stand
to hang pictures straight.

> because he could conceive of greatness on a scale
> that most people cannot.

TOM: Ah, but could he imagine greatness with *letters*?

MIKE: It’s got to be more than making an acronym.

>
> I can move the world.
>
> Not one of you can say the same.

CROW: Not without my *letters*!

TOM: Guy puts initials together, wants world to know. We can play
that game, I guess.

>
> My posts get translated to languages across the planet. I watch ideas
> of mine travel around the world.

MIKE: I see whole civilizations transmitting my messages back in time
to change the course of history!

TOM: Frishtory!

>
> Yet I am still stopped by academics who are dead-set on fighting the
> Math Wars to the bitter end, and mostly they just wait.

CROW: Plus his freshman Calc TA has lousy office hours.

>
> Yes, Princeton academics can stop me today.

MIKE: Yes, they can wrap me head to toe in duct tape and leave me
in the back room. I’ll bring the tape.

> Yes, Harvard academics
> can hold the line today.

TOM: I won’t need the line until the weekend anyway.

>
> But they burn everything their universities have built up over the
> years in the process and I let them.

CROW: To be honest, I’m not sure why I did that. I hope I left myself a note about it.

MIKE: A note made almost entirely of *letters*!

>
> I emailed the University of California at Berkeley to note some
> unethical behavior by Arturo Magidin,

MIKE: Who was clearly abusing the “take all you want” rule at the Golden Prawn Chinese Buffet.

> and noticed at that point that
> Ralph McKenzie is listed as faculty,

TOM: And not as a Decepticon underling.

> where it notes he is at my alma
> mater Vanderbilt University.

CROW: Case closed.

>
> Yup, I know that as I visited him there years ago,

MIKE: But don’t be jealous. Many people can visit professors at Vanderbilt University if they learn my invention of *letters*.

> before my paper was
> published,

TOM: When there were concerts in the park.

> retracted after sci.math’ers including Magidin trumped the
> formal peer review system with some emails,

CROW: Before they sent a squad of highly physically developed
“Mathletes” to do a pole vault over an obelus.

> and the freaking math
> journal died.

TOM: That’s _The Journal of Freaking Math_.

MIKE: The official mathematics journal of Freakazoid.

>
> Academics can only sit and wait, while I move forward over time.

CROW: Occasionally I move too far forward, and bump into the railing overlooking the balcony. I move to the side a little, and start moving forward again.

> Knowing that at the end, I go for the entire system to reform it.
>
> And I will change their world.

MIKE: I will infuse it with drawn butter baked right in.

>
> I send papers to math journals and I [ beep ] well get a reply.

CROW: Like “No” and “Who are you again, exactly?”

> Sure,
> they’re polite rejections but they had better reply to me.

TOM: Or else I may visit people at *more* universities and withhold from them my vitally needed *letters*!

>
> You people don’t get it because I post among you, and you think that
> because I post I must be at your level.

MIKE: I’m actually posting things that are nine-dimensional and subject to rotation in fourteen dimensions at once.


[ To conclude … ]

MiSTed: JSH: War of attrition (Part 1 of 3)


Now may I share the second and I think last James S Harris post I turned into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. It’s not that Harris stopped writing (at least back then), or even stopped being a wonder to behold. But a lot of his posts tried to argue for his astounding mathematical discoveries everyone else understood wrongly. But that can be hard reading, especially when his error is a big unproven assumption in the middle of a lot of dense reasoning. And just railing against the conspiracy to suppress him gets repetitious. (And, where it got personal, uncomfortable to root on.) So maybe this is as much as I needed to do.

The game-show-themed-diseases thing grew out of like one night where for like half an hour my friends and I were adding “… and a new car!” to the ends of references to things. I think it shows. The segue between “the 23rd of May” and Allan Sherman is the “Don’t Buy The Liverwurst” segment in his medley Shticks Of One And Half A Dozen Of The Other. Fun song. Crow’s line setting it up has the meter of Sherman’s tune. Other cryptic riffs: Hm. Something about the specificity of saying “G4.872” in a riff makes me think I was referencing something, but I don’t remember what. Maybe it was my Mac’s model number or something. Baudot Code was a telegraphic alphabet where each symbol had a five-bit code. It was invented by Émile Baudot, who’s the person referenced in the unit “baud”.


[ OPENING CREDITS. As per season ten. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. DESK. DAY. DENNIS. Behind the desk are a harried CROW and MIKE, accompanied by TOM, in a bathrobe, who’s in the middle of enunciating in his best overblown style. ]

TOM: … and you’ll love the view of the Satellite of Love you get from behind the wheel of … *your new car*!

[ CROW barely suppresses a frustrated cry. ]

MIKE: Hi, everyone. If Crow and I seem to be on the edge of losing all moral judgement it’s because our own Tom Servo here has contracted a nagging case of The Price Is Right Announcer Showcase Segue Syndrome, or Johnny Olson’s Disease …

TOM: … and you’ll recover from your bout with The Price Is Right Announcer Showcase Segue Syndrome by taking a ride to the hospital in … *your new car*!

CROW: [ Staring, jaw-dropped, at CAMBOT. ] He’s gone on just this way on almost everything we say ever since the 23rd of May.

TOM: … and you’ll love listening to your Allan Sherman CD collection on the deluxe collectible sound system in … *your new car*!

MIKE: Gypsy ejected herself into space on Memorial Day.

TOM: … when you can take the season’s first trip to the Shore in —

[ MIKE, screaming, grabs TOM’s dome and tosses it away. ]

TOM: Well, now, *that’s* just overreacting.

[ MADS sign flashes. ]

CROW: Hey, uh, Kitty Carlisle, Mark Goodson, and Bill Todman are calling.

MIKE: Yello?

[ MIKE taps the sign. ]


[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PROFESSOR BOBO is laying in bed, clutching a teddy bear and his sheets; OBSERVER is his nurse. PEARL is nibbling from a box of get-well chocolates. ]

BOBO: C … M …

OBSERVER: One more.

BOBO: K … and an I.

PEARL: Oh, stop whining. Bobo’s had Acute Wheel of Fortune Bonus Round Condition for a week and you don’t see Brain Guy about to smack him silly, do you?

BOBO: Licorice tabernacle?

OBSERVER: Actually, Pearl, if you’re asking —

[ PEARL turns around and glares at him. ]

OBSERVER: — Right, then. Three consonants and a vowel, Professor.

BOBO: V … F … H …

OBSERVER: And a vowel?

BOBO: A.

PEARL: Say, you know what’s good for your brain being fried by the incomprehensible ravings of others?

BOBO: Marzipan doorknob?

OBSERVER: You have R, S, T, L, N, E.

BOBO: G … P … W …

PEARL: Why don’t you scurry on into the theater and fry your brains on the incomprehensible ravings of James Harris?

BOBO: U?

PEARL: Scurry along, little ones. Servo. *Now*.

[ PEARL waits confidently while nothing happens. ]

BOBO: Ticonderoga gumdrop?

PEARL: [ Less confident ] Now?

OBSERVER: Giving you R, S, T, L, N, and for a change, E.

BOBO: J … D … R …

OBSERVER: Ooooh. You already had R, sorry.

[ PEARL swats OBSERVER with the candy box, sending some chocolates in the air, which BOBO scoops up eagerly. ]

BRAIN: Oh, yes, right, Mike, sorry. War of Attrition, you know?

[ He does the mind-sending thingy with the sound effect thing. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. As above; TOM hasn’t got his dome back yet. ]

TOM: Boy, glad I don’t have an annoying disease like that.

CROW: [ Restrained single-handed by MIKE. ] Lemme at him! Lemme at him! I’ll splat him!

[ MOVIE SIGN ]

MIKE: Save it —

ALL: WE GOT MOVIE SIGN!

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ]

[ THEATER. ALL enter, TOM still dome-less. ]

> Path: rpi!news.usc.edu!

TOM: Your USC news feeders coming to you by way of *your new car*!

CROW: Hit him!

[ MIKE puts a fresh dome on TOM. ]

TOM: I’ll be good.

> newsfeed.news.ucla.edu!

CROW: I understand “Newsucla” is a dirty word in some places.

> newsfeed.stanford.edu!postnews.google.com!

MIKE: Post-News-Herald-Dispatch-Tribune-Chronicle-Times-Journal.

> a26g2000pre.googlegroups.com!not-for-mail

TOM: Not for chain mail.

> From: jst…@gmail.com
> Newsgroups: alt.math.undergrad,alt.math,alt.math.recreational,sci.math

CROW: And the sci.math all-number-theory cheerleaders!

> Subject: JSH: War of attrition

MIKE: Isn’t that a Gwar album?

> Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 22:>37:09 -0700

TOM: So it’s … negative 678:37:09?

> Organization: http://groups.google.com
> Lines: 104

CROW: Straight Lines: 75.

> Message-ID: <1180676229.3…@a26g2000pre.googlegroups.com>

MIKE: Remember to pre-Google. You don’t want to search for ‘lentil bathtub’ without warming up.

> NNTP-Posting-Host: 67.164.117.60
> Mime-Version: 1.0

CROW: Nine-Version: 0.1.

> Content-Type: text/plain;

MIKE: But you can decorate it with maybe a cheery scarf or a smiling button?

> charset="iso-8859-1"
> X-Trace: posting.google.com 1180676229 31488 127.0.0.1

TOM: Aren’t those our orbital elements?

> (1 Jun 2007 05:37:09 GMT)

CROW: Grover Meridian Time — the time zone of Grover everywhere!

> X-Complaints-To: groups…@google.com
> NNTP-Posting-Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2007 05:37:09 +0000 (UTC)

MIKE: The Universal Tickle Company has nothing to add to the time!

> User-Agent: G2/1.0

TOM: G2, G1.0, give or take.

CROW: It’s really G4.872.

> X-HTTP-UserAgent: Mozilla/5.0

MIKE: A fifth of Mozilla?

TOM: With a spot of gin.

> (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.1.4)

CROW: It’s like when the thunderstorm messes up the closed captioning.

> Gecko/20070515 Firefox/2.0.0.4,gzip(gfe),gzip(gfe)

MIKE: [ As Tigger ] G-zip G-zoo, woo hoo hoo hoo!

> Complaints-To: groups…@google.com
> Injection-Info: a26g2000pre.googlegroups.com; posting-host=67.164.117.60;

TOM: But no carbohydrates, so it’s Atkins-friendly.

> posting-account=Q2zO6wwAAABSLuGzZIjG0efOtB9n8fUY

CROW: When computers curse in Baudot code!

> Xref: rpi sci.math:396490

MIKE: I was never good at these analogy questions.

>
> The Math Wars

[ TOM hums the opening to ‘Star Wars’, as in, dum-dum-dum-DAAAA-DUM! ]

> are to me all about how some people with position and
> power forget the power of the pen,

MIKE: To the brew that is true.

CROW: Don’t say a line like that when you’ve just had garlic.

> and sit letting the pot slowly come
> to a boil.

CROW: This week on baffling metaphor theater!

TOM: Then add three cups of sliced carrots and a dash of mustard.


[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 3 of 3)


And now let me wrap up my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of James S Harris’s Usenet rant, “So They Lied”. When I split this piece up for easier reading, I thought this last piece was longer than it was. In word count it’s about the same as the first two segments. This may be some lesson about how the back-and-forth of text and riffing will seem different from the dialogue of host sketches.

At one point one of the sci.math regulars, trying to give James Harris every possible benefit, tried to use his revolutionary new factoring method as it existed that month (it saw many, many revisions) to decompose 15 into 3 times 5. The proof went on and on and on, and bringing in bigger and bigger numbers, and not showing any hints of producing a ‘3’ or a ‘5’ from all this. It’s the only time I have ever seen factoring numbers be laugh-out-loud funny. Mr Harris did not see the humor.

When I wrote this it was a safe bet that the Cubs would lose in excruciating ways. We’ve lost all our traditions lately. Bobo factoring large numbers in his head is another expression of my liking dumb characters having weird corners of hypercompetence. (And I remember doing some fishing around looking for a good prime number somewhere in the millions. The other numbers I think I found by taking some small prime numbers and multiplying them together.) I feel like Pearl’s fuming and then finally doing nothing more than throwing some papers around is a reference to something, but I can’t think what. The little “closing credits” line about the alien soccer tournament certainly refers to something, but I don’t remember if it was an in-joke with my friends or something that could possibly communicate.


>
> Is life really not fair, or are most people cowards to the truth?

MIKE: Uhm … I say ‘not fair’.

TOM: I say ‘coward’.

CROW: ‘Coward’, definitely.

TOM: Make mine ‘not fair’.

MIKE: I want to change to ‘coward’ now.

CROW: Maybe it is just ‘not fair’.

TOM: I’m gonna write in ‘The Beatles’.

>
> A person like me comes around only every hundred years or so,

CROW: The mathematics of Brigadoon.

> and
> people forget.
>
> And then a LOT of people die,

MIKE: So World War I was started by the mathematicians?

> and then the mythologies are written,

CROW: About … mathematicians.

> legends are born.

TOM: About …

MIKE: Right.

CROW: Yeah, I remember this one mathematician who … uhm …

>
> But make no mistake, you might be one of those people who die THIS
> time.

MIKE: But *only* if you finish your chores.

>
> I suggest to you that even if you don’t give a damn about mathematics,

CROW: Give a *darn*, thank you.

> couldn’t care less about what is truth, why should you protect fakes
> who have betrayed you, yet again,

MIKE: Maybe you like the fakes. Some of them have great parties.

CROW: I love those parties. You know, “Isn’t everyone here so really?”

> and in their inability to understand
> and their lack of intelligence, they leave the world vulnerable,

MIKE: The world is just feeling very fragile right this minute.

> because this time, to stop this post, all they had to do was step
> up–and protect the world?

CROW: Step right up! Protect three worlds for a nickel!

>
> TODAY they could have stepped up to protect the world.

MIKE: Tomorrow, they could step up to protect Neptune.

>
> Die for them?

CROW: Who?

>
> Why?

TOM: Good question.

>
> And even if you won’t die, why let anyone else?

CROW: Strap a mathematician into a protective baby seat!

>
> Their quiet is your answer if you had questions.

MIKE: So it’s a good thing you asked them what quiet sounded like.

>
> Yes, they lied. They betrayed the world. And they lost.

TOM: But they’ve got a pocket full of quarters and can play all day.

>
> Question now is, who loses with them?

MIKE: I’m guessing the Cubs.

>
> James Harris

MIKE: Or yeah, he’ll do too.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. TOM SERVO, MIKE, and CROW are filling out a form. ]

MIKE: All right, so, who was running the world according to that?

TOM: Uh … I don’t know … mathematicians were running mathematics?

MIKE: [ Writing ] And what was their objective?

CROW: We don’t have any idea.

MIKE: [ Still writing ] Don’t … have … idea. Method of ruling the world?

CROW: Something to do with prime numbers.

MIKE: Prime … numbers. Likelihood of success?

TOM: We have no idea what that was all about.

MIKE: … Was … all … about. Okay, Pearl, good luck with your world conquest through prime numbers.


[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PROFESSOR BOBO and OBSERVER are working as above; PEARL is in front, by the camera. After a pause OBSERVER does that brain-wave thing, and MIKE’s report pops into her hand. ]

PEARL: Excellent! And when we take over this … cabal … we’ll be able to … uh … factorize numbers like … twenty-eight thousand, eight hundred fifty eight in —

BOBO: [ Without looking up ] Two times forty-seven times three hundred seven.

PEARL: [ Slighty thrown ] Or … one million, five hundred thirty-one thousand, one hundred twelve …

BOBO: Two to the third power times eleven times one hundred twenty-seven times one hundred thirty-seven.

PEARL: [ Challenging ] 89 thousand, one hundred seventy-five.

BOBO: [ Finally looking at her ] Three times five squared times twenty-nine times forty-one.

PEARL: [ Testy ] Nine million … three hundred eighty six thousand … seven hundred thirty-one.

BOBO: Is already prime.


[ PEARL stares at BOBO. OBSERVER slips his pile of papers onto BOBO’s table while she fumes, and then slips away. After letting her temper build, PEARL grabs all the papers on BOBO’s table and throws them in the air, creating a flurry of sheets of paper. ]

PEARL: [ Turning to the camera; oddly pleasant ] Thanks for the help.
We’ll be in touch over the holiday season.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the characters and situations therein are the property of Best Brains, Inc, so kindly nobody tell them about this and we’ll all be better off. The essay “So They Lied” is the property of James S Harris as posted to sci.math. This MiSTing as a whole is the property of Joseph Nebus, who doesn’t intend anything mean-spirited or hostile to James Harris, Brad Guth, Best Brains, or the concept of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If they just won the alien soccer tournament, they’re going to be too tired to fly all the way to Earth just for dessert toppings. Please come back, Dr Mike Neylon!

> Now I have found a new factoring method.
>
> Literally trillions of dollars WILL move as a result, but for now, you
> can see the quiet as these people keep lying.


[ The end ]

MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 2 of 3)


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 a^p - a 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?

MIKE: Maybe.

> force them out of the discipline,

CROW: Turn their backs and go “nyah nyah nyah I can’t hear you”!

> and
> 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,

CROW: GANGWAY!

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
> vulnerable.

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 … ]

MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 1 of 3)


For my next Mystery Science Theater 3000 performance, it’s a Usenet rant. James S Harris was — possibly still is — a regular on sci.math, a group for just what you’d think. Like everyone who loves mathematics, he tried to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. Like many people, he thought he had something; it’s not difficult to come up with work that looks like it should prove that thing about a^n + b^n = c^n . Also like everyone taking that tack, including Fermat, he was wrong. He spent a lot of time arguing with the sci.math Actual Mathematicians about how no, maybe the whole of professional mathematics was wrong and not him.

As a sideline to his Fermat work, he thought he found a new scheme for factoring numbers. And spent a lot of time arguing with the sci.math Actual Mathematicians about how no, maybe the whole of professional mathematics was wrong and not him. So this is one piece of those many fights.

In the introduction sketch I imagine rattling apart a very fragile Tom Servo doll, one like the Crow T Robot that gets frozen to pieces in Eegah. I like writing sketches that have some visual action while staying something basic cable could produce in the 90s. The Izah fat evaporator was based on some similarly-named “make your muscles twitch so you lose weight” scam device I saw ads for in Singapore in the early 2000s. They were oddly hypnotic, showing this box put on various parts of the body while the singer chanted, “zap zap thigh, zap zap thigh, zap zap tummy, zap zap tummy”, and so on. The 17/23 Correlation is some weird conspiracy thing I know about because it got mentioned, and not explained, in The Straight Dope. The “such a Ratliff” that Pearl Forrester warns she has waiting was Stephen Ratliff’s story “Endeavor’s Beginning”, a group project to which I donated riffs. If it was ever finished and published I missed the news. Shame; I remember doing some good work on that. I think the “a kind of fish” line was originally one of Dave Barry’s jokes and forget from where.


[ OPENING CREDITS, SEASON TEN STYLE. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW, MIKE, and TOM SERVO are behind the desk. TOM has a bright yellow power brick-size contraption strapped to his chest; it has an oversized spiral paper disc in front. ]

CROW: [ Taunting ] Tom, you’re gonna die.

TOM: Am not.

MIKE: Gotta side with Crow. [ Looking up: ] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Satellite of Love, and, uh, Tom is worried about his figure.

TOM: My friends wouldn’t say anything, but I have been packing on a few too many pounds and I don’t have time for a good exercise program, so instead I got an Izah fat evaporator. By stimulating my many muscle groups in rhythmic oscillatory pulses I can shed pounds without any work.

CROW: He’s gonna die.

MIKE: Crow’s right, but hey, you want, you want.

TOM: Right! Fire me up to fitness, Mike!


[ MIKE touches a button on the brick; the paper wheel starts spinning. TOM rattles around like an unbalanced washing machine. TOM makes all sorts of aggedy-aggedy-aggedy and acking type noises, while pieces go flying off — his cap, his head, his skirt, his arms one at a time, the front of his barrel, and finally he collapses behind the desk. ]

CROW: Told you so!

MIKE: Crow, hush, that’s not very nice.

[ MIKE leans down and digs around on the floor. He picks up the small cylinder with TOM’s mouth on it. ]

TOM: [ Dazedly ] I … feel … … lithe.

[ MADS SIGN flashes. ]

MIKE: Aw, great, and now Pearl needs us … Hello down there …

[ MIKE hits the MADS SIGN with TOM, who goes ‘Ow!’. ]


[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, PROFESSOR BOBO, and OBSERVER are seated behind card tables covered with books, papers, scrawled notes, strangely marked globes, astrolabes, for that `stuff’ theme. A bare light on a long electrical wire hangs over their heads. BOBO and OBSERVER mutter their lines to each other. ]

BOBO: Federal Reserve …

OBSERVER: Opus Dei …

PEARL: [ To BOBO and OBSERVER, muttering ] Just, keep me posted.
[ To camera, boisterously ] All right, Nel-sonnnn … [ She drags out the ‘n’, thinking of a way to twist it, finally giving up with: ] N. I got to thinking: why go to all the hard work of taking over the world when I can just find the guys who *do* rule the world and take *them* over?

[ BOBO holds up a piece of paper with “17/23” written across it, which OBSERVER does not find interesting. ]

PEARL: So now I just have to find them, and by ‘I’ I mean ‘you’, so, get into that theater and tell me what this tells you about who’s ruling the world, got it?

OBSERVER: Heidi Klum …

BOBO: Goo goo ga joob.

PEARL: BRAIN GUY!

OBSERVER: Hup … one conspiracy in 35 millimeters, coming up.

[ BRAIN GUY noise. ]

PEARL: And you better get it right or I have *such* a Ratliff waiting.


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MIKE is trying out putting the gumball dome under TOM’s mouth, while CROW snickers. ]

TOM: This just feels funny.

[ MOVIE SIGN; ALL panic. ]

ALL: MOVIE SIGN!

[ INTO THE THEATER … 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ]

[ MIKE carries in just TOM’s mouthpiece, and hides it behind the chair. ]

> From: jst…@msn.com

CROW: Hail the Missin’com!

> Newsgroups: sci.math,alt.math.undergrad

MIKE: o/` old.math.river, that old.math.river … o/`

> Subject: JSH: So they lied

CROW: It happens.

> Lines: 109

CROW: Polygons: 28.

[ TOM, back to normal, emerges in silhouette. ]

> Message-ID: <1150354125….@g10g2000cwb.googlegroups.com>

TOM: It’s ten to one hundredth power of giddy, groupy fun!

>
> I first began to get a real grasp of the true situation when I was
> arguing about my prime counting function,

CROW: We’re … so very sorry for you.

> which is actually THE prime
> counting function,

MIKE: The prime counting function of the whole tri-city area!

> and after yet another useless argument on sci.math
> with some regulars, it occurred to me, they had to know.

TOM: How do you tell when an argument on Usenet is useless?

MIKE: It’s on Usenet?

>
> They had to know that what I had actually was different from what was
> previously known in key ways,

CROW: Like in its delightful lemony scent.

> but they were deliberately lying about
> it.

TOM: I confronted them. They denied it. Case closed.

>
> Now I have found a new factoring method.

MIKE: [ Mad science laughter ] Mwu-hu-ha-hA-HA-HA-HA-HAAA … huh?

>
> Literally trillions of dollars WILL move as a result, but for now, you
> can see the quiet as these people keep lying.

TOM: It was visible out there. Too, too visible.

>
> How is it possible?

MIKE: Can this mixed-up world be as zany as I hope?

>
> Mathematics is a difficult discipline.

CROW: And a worse toothpaste.

>
> Or you can say, math is hard.

TOM: But with a crunchy peanut buttery center.

>
> Most people shy away from it because it IS so hard,

MIKE: Others avoid it because they’re afraid a rogue
isosceles triangle will impale them.

> but a few people
> learned that while doing real mathematics was hard, LOOKING like you
> were doing real mathematics was easier.

TOM: Finally we learn why Sudoku has caught on!

>
> So they fake it.

MIKE: But they were caught when they identified the square root symbol as “a kind of fish”.


[ To continue … ]

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