Monday, December 12, 2016

So what can I get for a used brain?

Joke by Emo Phillips

Damned little, I can tell you that.

If my brain were a computer, I would have traded it in for a new, less glitchy model ages ago. That not being an option, I give it snap quizzes every once in a while to see how it's working.

Tonight's snap quiz: Ten French Mathematicians in ten minutes.

Okay, I'm at six faster than plus vite!

The three great guys before Newton: Descartes, Pascal, Mersenne.
Three "La" or "Le" prefixes: LeGendre, LaPlace, LaGrange

Oh, yeah: seven: Poincare

Ummm... Cauchy.

So I'm at eight in about two minutes, and then things slow down.

The heat equation guy, lived in Grenoble, kept his house crazy hot...
Sorry, says my brain. I'll give you the anecdote, but not his name.

I started thinking 20th Century and dragged up Rene Thom. That's nine.

There was a great French mathematician whose name was like a great German's mathematician, but different pronunciation. I know the German worked with Einstein and his name was... all I get is Kurt. That's not right. Kurt Goedel was at the Institute of Advanced Studies with Einstein and xxx, but the guy I'm thinking of has a different first name.

Tick, tick, tick.

Think of a theorem or field! My brain gives me Abel. No, Niels Abel was Scandinavian.

I've now got two minutes and I'm hating my brain.

AH! Galois! Galois and Abel independently prove the insolubility of the quintic! My brain was giving me puzzles to solve.

Timer goes off, ten in ten minutes, so success.

Unsolved puzzle #1: my brain offered Kurt because of Kurt Weill, not Kurt Goedel. Hermann Weyl is the German mathematician, Andre Weil (pronounce "way") is the French.

The heat equation guy was Fourier, whose name completely slipped my mind. No puzzle worked here.

Also if I'm naming the guys before Newton, Fermat should be there. Duh.
Also Hadamard, Borel, both guys named Cartan, deMoivre, Mandelbrot, Poisson, Hermite and Sophie Germain.


I passed the test barely, with the feeling I would have breezed through it even ten years ago.

Getting old sucks. But most of you knew that already, right?


dguzman said...

I often do these little quizzes--name all the auxiliary verbs, or the six uses of a comma, or all the parts of speech. I need new grammar or lit quizzes.

Matthew Hubbard said...

I was doing them for a while, and then I started to feel "Okay, this is fine". I started again... maybe not so fine.