Dueling mathematicians

I was doing some studying yesterday on the theory of algebra (no, it's not the same thing as what most people think is algebra), and I came across some work by Evariste Galois (pronounced Galwah), which reminded me of his interesting story.

Galois was some kind of math genius in the early 1800s. He was brilliant enough that at the time no one understood any of his work and he couldn't get into the good math schools because they thought his work was nonsense, and 200 years later it's taught to every graduate pure math student in the world. What's more remarkable is that he did his research in his teens. He died when he was 20, and he understood and contributed more than nearly any other mathematician who ever lived, and most of them lived full lives. Sure, there are your giants like Euler (pronounced Oiler) who surely did more than Galois, but not many did.

He was 20. I'm 25. It's just crazy to me that he "made up," or discovered, or whatever you want to call it, so much about modern algebra that I don't begin to understand the scope of it, and he died at 20. What could he have done if he had lived to be 50?

Galois died in a duel. It's not known exactly why he was in the duel, but it was apparently over a girl. He was in love with some girl who I guess he had a history with, but she was engaged to someone else (who may or may not have been who he dueled, we don't know). I heard a really dramatic version of the story, but I don't remember the details and apparently most of it is speculation. It was a gun duel, unfortunately. For some reason I often picture it as a sword fight which would have been more epic, I think. Anyway, all that's really known is he was shot at age 20 in a duel, and he had a pretty strong feeling he'd lose, so he spent most of his last night trying to compile all of his theory. A later mathematician said that what he wrote that night, "if judged by the novelty and profundity of ideas it contains, is perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in the whole literature of mankind." Pretty remarkable for a 20-year-old.

Galois was a lot smarter than me, but I guess at least I know not to fight a duel to the death when I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose. Sharayah was wondering what weapon I would use to fight a duel for her. First of all I'd avoid a gun duel. I guess I'm not great with a sword either. I suppose when it comes down to it there's only one type of duel I'm sure I'd win, so I guess that's what I'd have to challenge my opponent to: a thumb war. I haven't lost a thumb war since I was probably 10 years old. In 10th grade I won a thumb war tournament (thumb tournament?) at my high school. I had to beat the quarterback in the finals, his hands were huge, but I prevailed. Probably I wouldn't even have to do the duel, because my reputation would precede me and the guy would forfeit and run away. I would obliterate anyone in a thumb war, and then I would take my prize (the korean) and walk away with my head held high.

the noise inside

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I never knew that you were such a fierce thumb wrestler! I'm impressed.