Why I Wrote “The Crucible”

Arthur Miller’s article in the New Yorker from 1996:

The Crucible” was an act of desperation. Much of my desperation branched out, I suppose, from a typical Depression-era trauma—the blow struck on the mind by the rise of European Fascism and the brutal anti-Semitism it had brought to power. But by 1950, when I began to think of writing about the hunt for Reds in America, I was motivated in some great part by the paralysis that had set in among many liberals who, despite their discomfort with the inquisitors’ violations of civil rights, were fearful, and with good reason, of being identified as covert Communists if they should protest too strongly.

Warnock’s Dilemma

I hadn’t heard of this before although it makes me feel better as to why some of my favorite links get little or no comments.

Warnock’s Dilemma, named for its originator Bryan Warnock, points out that a lack of response to a posting on a mailing list, Usenet newsgroup, or Web forum does not necessarily imply that no one is interested in the topic

The Simpsons and Fermat’s Last Theorem

In the 1995 Halloween episode of the award-winning animated sitcom The Simpsons, two-dimensional Homer Simpson accidentally jumps into the third dimension. During his journey in this strange world, geometric solids and mathematical formulas float through the air, including an innocent-looking equation: 178212 + 184112 = 192212. Most viewers surely ignored this bit of mathematical gobbledygook.

On the fan discussion site alt.tv.simpsons, however, the equation caused a bit of a stir. “What’s going on, he seems to have disproved Fermat’s last theorem!” one fan marveled, referring to the famous claim by Pierre de Fermat—proved just months earlier—that for any exponent n bigger than 2, there are no nonzero whole numbers a, b, and c for which an + bn = cn. The Simpsons equation, if correct, would be a counterexample to the theorem, meaning that the proof had been wrong.

It ended up being a problem with the way a calculator rounds off the numbers but my favorite part is this:

To David X. Cohen, the Simpsons writer who concocted the equation, the fans’ responses were a source of glee. Cohen had written a computer program specifically to look for what mathematicians call Fermat “near misses”: combinations of numbers a, b, c, and n that come so close to satisfying Fermat’s equation that they would seem to work when tested on a calculator.

Why go to such lengths for a background joke that would flash across the screen in a matter of seconds? Mainly for the fun of it, but also to flex intellectual muscles that don’t typically get exercised in Hollywood script rooms: Cohen has a master’s degree in computer science.

(via Look at This)