29 March 2012

Fermat's Last Tango

I recently watched a DVD of the musical comedy Fermat's Last Tango,  produced by The Clay Mathematics Institute.

I may discuss the production in greater depth at some point next week.  Right now I'd just like to record the lyrics of one of the songs: Your Proof Contains a Hole.

Just a bit of background information first. This scene takes place in a quasi-heaven called "The AfterMath," where famous mathematicians live out their immortality. The bulk of the song is sung by Fermat, who believes his own immorality requires the insolubility of his theorem. He is singing to Daniel Keanes, a fictionalization of Andrew Wiles, who though still very much alive is visiting the AfterMath.

The chorus consists of AfterMath regulars: Euclid; Pythagoras; Newton; Gauss.

Without further ado, then....

Fermat: Your proof contains a flaw, Professor Keane,
               It destroys the whole foundation of your finely tuned machine:
               I hate to be a spoilsport, I know it was your goal
               But your proof contains a big fat hole.

Keane: A hole?
Chorus: A hole?
Keane: My proof contains a hole?

Fermat: I didn't want to be the one to saaaay
               I know this is upsetting, please show some self-control
               But your proof contains a big fat hole.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.