The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Aug 6, 2012


A taxicab
You've probably heard this story before. The English mathematician G.H. Hardy once visited the Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan in hospital. Hoping to the cheer up the patient, Hardy said he'd arrived in a taxi numbered 1729, which struck him as a rather boring number.

Ramanujan demurred. It is an interesting number, he said, because it's the smallest number that can be expressed a sum of two cubes in two different ways.

That is to say, 1729 = 93 + 103 = 13 + 123

And there's a galaxy (in Orion) with the catalogue number NGC 1729. (A supernova was detected there on February 20, 2012. Check it out here.) We could conceivably name it after Ramanujan, I daresay?

But 1729 is interesting in several other ways too. Sure, these are mere numerical coincidences. Numerologists base their entire lives on the like. I am inclined to point out some of these below because it's a slow day and it's raining and Usain Bolt has done his thing and I'm bored.

1,729 steps to the top of the Mandalay Hill
1729 steps to Mandalay Hill
If you go to Mandalay, your eye will oftentimes be drawn to the enormous Mandalay Hill. Pagodas and shrines surround the long path that leads up to it. How many steps on that path? 1729.

There's a baroque musical group called Ensemble 1729. I think they're a bunch of Canadians. They are inspired by Ramanujan and by the fact that the year 1729 has several historical coincidences - you can see what they were on the group's website.

Gideon Rubin: Louis XV
If you fancy a bit of champagne, you'll be pleased to hear that its first house was also established in the year 1729. This was the house of Ruinart, which received the heraldic crest in 1817 that it has used ever since. Ruinart likes to promote contemporary art. In Basel last year they came up with an exhibition of works by Gideon Rubin who based his paintings on photographs and drawings from the Ruinart archives.

Speaking of champagne, Baltimore, Maryland, was founded in 1729 and scarcely seventeen years later, its first manufacturing industry was beer.

I'm forced to admit that this litany of 1729-hood is rapidly devolving into a list of dates, which is not interesting at all. Hence a rapid exit is indicated.


Anonymous said...

Ah you are around. All well?

sakura said...

Have you read The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt? It's a novel about Hardy and Ramanujan. I haven't read it yet although it's sitting on my shelf and looking at me accusingly...

Fëanor said...

sakura: you asked me exactly the same question two years ago! no wonder the book's glaring at you. i did dip into it - i found its fictionalisation somewhat tedious and the discussions of the mathematics unsatisfying.

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