Saturday, November 27, 2004


End of infinity
Aditya Rishi

THE Battle of Badr, Islam's first battle: Three hundred and thirteen Muslims take on the pagans of Mecca and win. How did that happen? What divine power brought this outcome? Is 313 a magic number? I know that 313 in base 10 is equal to 100111001 in base 2. It's the only 3-digit palindromic prime with this property. 100111001 in base 10 is a prime as well. A palindromic number is the one that reads the same forward or backward. 313 must be magical then.

If you are pushing for victory, it's good to have numbers on your side. I have my readers. Mind Games is now four years and running, and now I step on the brakes, but not to look back. This is the time to look forward. I see the general interest in mathematics rising towards the infinity mark. I see more and more people drawn towards pure mathematics and studying the abstract. We don't have to go far to look for a mathematical problem. The many mysteries of mathematics are right here.

We are the world leaders in arithmetic and finding quick results, but there are others who lead in a whole range of other fields because they are into abstract mathematics that gives importance to proving things in a more systematic manner. I read it in a book on Ramanujan. It makes sense. Standing on the shoulders of giants will make anyone look tall and it is proper, too, but when you become a giant, do allow other to stand on your shoulders. The view from there is great.

I am grateful the giants who allowed me this opportunity. Newton, Goethe, Ramanujan, they are all my brothers, separated at birth. I aspire to be like them, some day, even though each had a tormented history.

You don't have to be a mathematician to love mathematics. This might look to be the scariest of all subjects in school, but I can say from my experience of travelling this road that it's every second a pleasure trip. As a child, I was scared of mathematics, and now I'm dazzled. NASA has named a supercomputer after Kalpana Chawla; I don't think the machine will ever realise the importance of it. However, if some day, it acquires a mind of its own, it will feel honoured.

Someone once asked great Einstein how he developed the theory of relativity. "I thought," he said. That's the goal for all of us from here on. Let's think. Let's think our problems through. This is the last time I am writing this column, but neither you nor I will ever stop playing mind games.

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This feature was published on August 21, 2004