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IN People ON 05 May, 2016
It's awesome how faces of people flash in our mind, just after looking at some things. Like a falling Apple reminds us of Einstein and a bitten one of Steve Jobs and a bulb of Thomas Edison.
But if you are into Mathematics and you see 1729, one person whose face will appear in your mind is of Sir Ramanujan.
The beauty of this number was discovered by Sir Ramanujan. 1729 is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of the cubes of two different numbers in different ways, like, 1729 is the sum of cubes of 10 and 9 ( i.e. 1000+729) and that of 12 and 1 (i.e. 1728+1).
Isn't that marvelous?
Professor G.H. Hardy, a renowned mathematician himself and Ramanujan's mentor, once said, "numbers were personal friends of Ramanujan."
Once, when Hardy was visiting Ramanujan when he was ill, he explained Hardy the beauty of 1729. Here's a sketch from Robert Kanigel's book, "The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan."
"Once, in the taxi from London, Hardy (while visiting an ailing Ramanujan) noticed its number, 1729. …(as Hardy) entered the room where Ramanujan lay in a bed and declared…1729 was rather a dull number. "No, Hardy," said Ramanujan. "It is a very interesting number…"
April was declared as the Mathematics Awareness Month. This year, in April, the biopic, "The man who knew infinity," directed by Mathew Brown was released. When can it be better to release such a movie than the Mathematics Awareness Month?
We all are well aware that, every theorem needs a solid proof accompanying it. No proof No acknowledgement of the theorem, even if it takes you a century to come up with the proof. So, when Hardy came to know that Ramanujan had no knowledge of a proof whatsoever, he was baffled.
If Ramanujan didn't know what a proof was, obviously there was no way he knew his theorems were correct. Then how did he come up with those theories in the first place? Hardy suggested Ramanujan's theorem's to be a "curious mix of induction and intuition."
Ramanujan's religious mother believed that he was an extraordinary gift to her. This is a photo from Ramanujan's home. Another interesting anecdote, involving P C Mahalanobis, the founder of Indian Statistical Institute. Mahalanobis read an interesting puzzle in the Strand magazine, that went something like this:
" …the house of his friend was in a long street, (houses) numbered on this side one, two, three, and so on, and that all the number of one side of him added up exactly the same as all the numbers on the other side of him…. There were more than fifty houses…but not so many as five hundred… "
Mahalanobis managed to come up with the solution in few attempts. When he read out the question to Ramanujan who was stirring vegetables in the kitchen, instantly Ramanujan shouted back the answer. To say Mahalanobis was shocked would be an understatement.
Hardy awarded him 100 on 100 for his pure and awesome talent, while E T Bell, the writer of a famous work, Men of Mathematics, didn't seem to rate him high enough.
Ramanujan, who was quite heavy built in his youth, often joked that if he had to fight any boy in the school, all he had to do was throw himself at the boy, effectively crushing the opponent. And so is his work seems to be doing- they carry a huge wait.