Musicians practice; actors rehearse; athletes work out; and mathematicians play with numbers. Some of the games they play may seem as silly or pointless as musicians playing scales, but there is a point to it all. That old saying defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results was never really correct (or intended to be used as it often is).
An old joke is more on point: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” (Asked the first-time visitors to New York.) — “Practice, practice, practice!” (Replied the street musician they asked.) The point of mathematical play can be sheer exercise for the mind, sometimes can uncover unexpected insights, and once in a while can be sheer fun.
As when finally solving a 65-year-old puzzle involving the number 42!
The baseball joy in July continues! Last night, the American League won the Midsummer Classic, the MLB All-Star Game. In fact, it really wasn’t even a close game. The AL shut out the NL, 3-0, which ended a three-year losing streak! Prior to that streak, the AL pretty much owned the NL back to 1988, winning 18 of 22 (with one tie in ’02).
You are perhaps wondering why the American League is “us” and “we.” It’s simple. I’m a Minnesota Twins fan, and they’re in the AL (Central Division). And why the Twins? I lived here from 1960-1967 (my “Wonder Bread years”) and from 1984-present, so I’ve been a “Minnesnowtan” for 62% of my life. That’s reason enough.
What follows is a write up of notes I took during the game last night:
Do you all know the Gallagher bit about the Crazy English Language?
B.O.M.B. … “b-ah-m!”
T.O.M.B. … “t-ah-m?” … no T.O.M.B. “t-oo-m”
C.O.M.B. … “c-oo-m?” … no C.O.M.B. “c-oh-m”
P.O.M.B. … “p-oh-m?” … no P.O.E.M. “p-oh-m”
H.O.E.M. … “h-oh-m?” … no H.O.M.E. “h-oh-m”
S.O.M.E. … “s-oh-m?” … no S.O.M.E. “s-uh-m”
N.O.M.E. … “n-uh-m?” … no N.U.M.B. “n-uh-m”
This will make more sense when you get to the end of this Special Edition of Brain Bubbles.
The ship sailed when I was moved to rant about cable news, but I originally had some idea that Sideband #32 should be another rumination on bits and binary (like Sidebands #25 and #28). After all, 32-bit systems are the common currency these days, and 32 bits jumps you from the toy computer world to the real computer world. Unicode, for example, although it is not technically a “32-bit standard,” fits most naturally in a 32-bit architecture.
When you go from 16-bit systems to 32-bit systems, your counting ability leaps from 64 K (65,536 to be precise) to 4 gig (full precision version: 4,294,967,296). This is what makes 16-bit systems “toys” (although some are plenty sophisticated). Numbers no bigger than 65 thousand (half that if you want plus and minus numbers) just don’t cut very far.
Nearly all science fiction fans share a meme about the number 42. This meme comes from the Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the great “modern classics” (an apparent oxymoron, but it is just shorthand for ‘a recent work that is so good that someday it will be counted among the classics’). The book is the first in the “increasingly misnamed” trilogy that shares its name.
The trilogy is “increasingly misnamed” in that it now has five books. The joke is that, in science fiction, trilogies are as common as aliens, spaceships and time travel. In fact, depending on the context, there are a two trilogies that have earned the sobriquet, “The Trilogy.” (Issac Asimov‘s Foundation series in the context of pure SF; and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings books in the context of SF + fantasy.)
In any event, the number, 42, is the answer to the question.