Thursday, August 13, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Only $33?

Wow. Imagine if you were stranded on a desert island, without a calculator, and you needed to quickly multiply two large numbers. I mean, when you are stranded on a desert island, life is fairly hectic. When you need something multiplied, you need it now!

Well, thank God, Albert Clay has found the code to mentally multiply two numbers. Actually, I should say "cracked" the code, since that is what the headline said. Funny, I do not remember anyone encrypting math. Was I given a key in third grade when I learned my multiplication table? Damnit! What did I do with that?

I think the opening line from the original article in The New & Observer was even more laughable:

On a yellow scratch pad, Albert Clay works out a math problem that can stump a calculator -- and all of the ciphering occurs inside his white-haired head."

Wow, that's impressive if true. What was the problem? Fermant's Last Thereom? Maybe the Riemann Hypothesis? How to love? Surely, this must be difficult!

54,321 x 12,345 = ?

(Collective groan). Really? That's not special! What kind of crappy ass calculator couldn't do this? Apparently, the pocket calculator could not display enough digits. Again, not special. If you have a 10 digit display, then you can enter 10,000,000,000 x 10 and the calculator will be unable to display the result unless it can do scientific notation. And a pocket calculator!?!? Was his abacus in the repair shop? Ok, well what is the trick?

"Suffice it to say you multiply the digits on the right, cross-multiply and add the digits in the center, then multiply the digits on the left."

That's not a code! That's math! This is not a short-cut. It's just doing the problem in a different way so that you can remember the steps easier. It's almost as if you can't just create information from nothing. Damn you Shannon! But wait, this old fart will sell you his "secret" for only $33. Why? For what purpose? The only value this has is as a party trick for a really, really dull person at a really, really dull party.

"Dude, this party is so lame!"

"Not to worry braugh, I scored us some paper and #2 pencils. We can long-division the shit out of this party!"

Christ, I wish I could say that this was a just some small town paper in rural America, but this is my hometown newspaper and served the area known as The Research Triangle.