Mr B and The E.
By Tom Brown
The Kruger Park
Just graduated and full of love of abstraction enthusiasm and vigour I attended my first conference, paid for entirely with saved pocket money.
“I'm the first Non-linear Jewish Hungarian Buddhist” he introduced himself. I was immediately confronted with “The New South-Africa must be non-sexist non-racist and non-linear”. He came out with some very powerful stuff that evening in fact I couldn’t sleep. He said functional analysis research was exhausted and that essentially all the questions had been answered this was just the cleaning up.
I asked him then what is he doing there? At the conference?
He told of how many bright young people were deceived and lured into the evil Linear cult as the prey of cut-throat Linear gangsters. They preyed on these innocent lambs like a pack of wolves devouring them and destroying their bright young minds forever for their own selfish good with no remorse nor mercy.
It was beginning to sound as if the E. was a secret agent. Everybody at this conference was to be executed these gangsters were to be each one put before a wall and executed by firing squad with machine-guns. He was very outspoken I must say and he talked very loudly he was clearly a fearless man. He explained it was his duty to do something about it. The universe was Not Linear. It was Non-linear and he proved it to me on a napkin. I was convinced.
"So you're making converts?", “It is Not funny”.
He said that in Euclidean geometry thousands of new theorems can still be proven but it's obviously a meaningless and futile endeavour the relevant ones have all been proved centuries ago and the same now goes for abstract (linear) analysis.
On the way back to the hut I was lost for two hours and I found it in the end just by trial-and-error. As a whole it was upsetting and quite a nasty experience.
This guy actually invited himself to a few universities in the vicinity he just rocked up unannounced and told everyone that there will now be a lecture in the seminar room. There he proclaimed his gospel. He was particularly insulting to graph-theorists. I never really understood myself what they were trying to do but it didn’t look like graphs to me more like join-the-dots.
There were some famous mathematicians there and I'd known about the one professor, I'd brought my Functional Analysis textbook with because he was cited in the book for constructing a famous counter-example, if I remember right this had to do with reflexive spaces and the existence of a countable base. I wanted to get this guy’s autograph in my textbook but I didn’t manage I think I was too shy. Or too drunk. They drink a lot at those conferences they braai a lot of meat too. Famous mathematics professors carry on like a bunch of hooligans.
The other graduate students said later it would have gone down in the annals of history if I’d got that autograph. One of them said these great mathematicians have groupies following them around everywhere. Well I wouldn’t know I mean I know of Tolstoy.
Hell and how. The time of and the Titanic and the Millennium Bugs.
Correspondence with The E.
“I came to learn, not teach (from you!)”
“It is no shame to teach. I did Not say you’re only good for teaching!”
“I apologize Sir. There is a misunderstanding.”
“There is no misunderstanding!”
The university management were trying out some newfangled notions that research professors each had to teach an undergraduate class. His was a large first year class.
A long queue of students with queries on their term papers were waiting at his door when he arrived. “Just sit for a while this won't take long.”
“Do you complain about 100%? How much do you want?”
There once was a very gloomy place where I worked a few years. I was once invited to the campus canteen by some colleagues. This was a once-off.
“Why don’t you drink?”
“Why would I want to?”
“Why do you never attend conferences?”
“It’s just an excuse to drink and to party.”
“And what is wrong with that!”
“I prefer choosing my own company.”
“No to fuzzy Logic!”
“My fridge and my washing machine to think for me?”
“But isn’t that what you want?”
“Ordinary everyday logic has always done it for me.
How do you prove your theorems?”
One plus One
Struggling with a (seemingly) gravely serious personal problem that had come a long way, late one night in crises I text'd The E. addressing him by his title and full names reciting all his lofty credentials and then,
“With due and great respect Professor. What is One plus One?”
The E. instantly reacted,
“Who is this? What is your story?”
“What is this business? What's going on? One plus One? What do you mean man?”
“It's a question Sir. What is the answer?”
“Really!? Do you know??”
“The answer is Two.”
Oh hell. He did not think it was funny he still doesn't. His brain was working full throttle on universal sets and categories and the philosophy of logic and fundamentals of set theory and profound questions of philosophy and theology.
Meanwhile the answer was “Two”.
So I'd made my breakthrough. I didn't understand the question, but I knew the answer.
That shrink guy thought I'd said “Why is one plus one two?” They don't always understand the subtleties and that guy wasn't the brightest peanut in the packet.
My brother was the only person I've known to answer that question meaningfully, why one plus one is two. His answer was “Because they decided to call the next number 'two' “. He is in very good company, Wilhelm Leibniz had the same answer.
Subsequently I have also mastered the two plus two method thoroughly.
The Greenhouse, Willowood Lane
“Happiness is for pigs” he stated very adamantly.
“Yes I can imagine. A pig in Palestine in passover in Jerusalem.”
“It is Not funny.”
Much later on I asked him about happiness and if he really meant what he'd said and reminded him of the Book of Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon in the Bible, and he answered most kindly saying that, Yes, “Indeed there is place for happiness and a time for joy and especially for 'the young' .”
(He had probably been referring more to the consumer type of happiness.)
On taking seats he informed me that he is an expert martial arts assassin. He said he could kill me right there in my seat in 15 seconds with his bare hands.
He ordered a simple salad instead of his usual double Quattro pizza, and fruit juice. As for me he ordered a big fillet-steak egg & chips a salad and a Coke. He'd learnt his lesson, he doesn't like to be interrupted.
The steak was heavy going it was so tough I could hardly even cut it whilst he was talking non-stop about characteristics solitons instead of shock waves and so on. I was getting desperate really with situation I managed at least to cut the thing in half and started chewing this piece of meat not making much impression but it got softer at least- like chewing tobacco. In the end out of frustration I thought I could swallow the bolus whole which I attempted and I managed but it got stuck halfway. Now I was really in a predicament.
I jumped up from my chair. The whole of the Greenhouse was now looking at the spectacle save him. He was unflustered he just kept on talking calmly looking up at me now and then wiping his mouth. To my anguish, that steak stuck fast. I tried to swallow with all force but to no avail. I struggled and staggered for several minutes I can only imagine my antics.
Finally it was dislodged to my great relief, and all the others. There was almost an atmosphere of applause. It was disposed of right there in a plant-pot without ceremony.
Imagine the headline: “Mr B chokes on his last steak at Greenhouse Willowood Road”. What an embarrassment. With a photo of the corpse lying grappling it's throat and The E. at the table calmly wiping his mouth with a napkin.
He has never mentioned the incident, save for the solitons.
I am convinced The E. could kill me in 15 seconds without even batting an eyelid and his methods are very sophisticated. It was a near-death experience. I admit it was rather unkind to answer an old man to “We don’t live forever you know” with “And thank God for that“.
Prof E is a very very kind man. I am not joking.
(The nice thing about a genius is that he always has time for you, and he insists on paying for the lunch.)