A can of Squirt was sitting on a table. A leftover from a lunch that we had at work with some training.
“Slurm!” my boss spouted to the programmer who walked away with it. Han, the programmer, had no clue about the reference.
This was referring to Futurama of course. Futurama is one of the few shows on TV that you can watch and walk away both highly entertained and a bit smarter. The one exception to the rule is the saddest episode ever on TV: Jurassic Bark.
From here we started talking math.
Like Klein bottles.
Or theorems sprouting from the show.
We ended with a simple number: 1729. My boss, Sriram, is like his name would imply, Indian. He pointed out the number shows up all the time. Why is the number special? Why is it special to an Indian?
It’s a Ramanujan number, or, from the story, a “Taxicab number.”
Go read the Wiki page for it. I don’t want to quote the entire store.
It gets better still… from there you can continue the voyage from Squirt, to Slurm, to Futurama, to India, to Taxicabs and number theory to Brazil — with Richard Feynman.
He recounts a story where he was challenged to produce the cube root of 1729.03. Since the number is special and magic, he was able to come up with the answer faster than the gentleman tending the abacus.
From Feynman you can get anywhere.