Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

By Arturo Sangalli | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
RANDOMNESS EVERYWHERE

McGill University’s main campus is located in downtown Montreal, at the foot of the Mont Royal hill, the city’s principal landmark. Just beyond the semicircular stone-and-iron entrance gate and on the right sits Burnside Hall, a box-shaped concrete building housing the mathematics and statistics department.

At two o’clock on a sunny afternoon in mid-April 1998, Burnside Hall’s main auditorium was almost packed, even though the lecture was not scheduled to start until 3:30. The speaker’s reputation had attracted an unusually large crowd for a mathematics talk. Its title, “Randomness at the Heart of Mathematics,” had aroused the interest of local and out-of-town mathematicians and computer scientists, who suspected that Norton Thorp would announce a breakthrough in the generation of random numbers, a subject central to the computer simulation of real-world phenomena.

By the time Andy Stone stepped on stage to introduce a speaker who needed no introduction, every available seat and standing space in the auditorium was occupied. Johanna Davidson was sitting in one of the front rows. She had arrived early, hoping that Andy would introduce her to his famous guest and she could have him sign her copy of Life of a Genius, his recently published biography. But her former teacher was too busy looking after the VIPs invited to the talk, and she obviously was not among them.

Norton Thorp was an artful speaker, and he knew how to structure his lectures in order to maintain the interest of his audience. He would

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Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • List of Main Characters (Chapter in Which They Are Introduced) xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • Part I- A Time Capsule? 1
  • Chapter 1- The Fifteen Puzzle 3
  • Chapter 2- The Impossible Manuscript 10
  • Chapter 3- Game over 19
  • Chapter 4- A Trip to London 25
  • Chapter 5- A Letter from the Past 32
  • Chapter 6- Found and Lost 38
  • Chapter 7- A Death in the Family 46
  • Part II- An Extraordinarily Gifted Man 51
  • Chapter 8- The Mission 53
  • Chapter 9- Norton Thorp 63
  • Chapter 10- Random Numbers 69
  • Chapter 11- Randomness Everywhere 76
  • Chapter 12- Vanished 82
  • Part III- A Sect of Neo­ Pythagoreans 83
  • Chapter 13- The Mandate 85
  • Chapter 14- The Beacon 87
  • Chapter 15- The Team 98
  • Chapter 16- The Hunt 106
  • Chapter 17- The Symbol of the Serpent 115
  • Chapter 18- A Professional Job 122
  • Chapter 19- with a Little Help from Your Sister 126
  • Part IV- Pythagoras' Mission 137
  • Chapter 20- All Roads Lead to Rome 139
  • Chapter 21- Kidnapped 152
  • Chapter 22- The Last Piece of the Puzzle 158
  • Epilogue 169
  • Appendix 1- Jule's Solution 171
  • Appendix 2- Infinitely Many Primes 173
  • Appendix 3- Random Sequences 175
  • Appendix 4- A Simple Visual Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem 177
  • Appendix 5- Perfect and Figured Numbers 178
  • Notes, Credits, and Bibliographical Sources 181
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