Lion Hunting and Other Mathematical Pursuits: A Collection of Mathematics, Verse, and Stories by the Late Ralph P. Boas, Jrby Ralph Philip Boas
In the famous paper of 1938, 'A Contribution to the Mathematical Theory of Big Game Hunting', written by Ralph Boas along with Frank Smithies, using the pseudonym H. W. O. Pétard, Boas describes sixteen methods for hunting a lion. This marvelous collection of Boas memorabilia contains not only the original article, but also several additional articles, as late… See more details below
In the famous paper of 1938, 'A Contribution to the Mathematical Theory of Big Game Hunting', written by Ralph Boas along with Frank Smithies, using the pseudonym H. W. O. Pétard, Boas describes sixteen methods for hunting a lion. This marvelous collection of Boas memorabilia contains not only the original article, but also several additional articles, as late as 1985, giving many further methods. But once you are through with lion hunting, you can hunt through the remainder of the book to find numerous gems by and about this remarkable mathematician. Not only will you find his biography of Bourbaki along with a description of his feud with the French mathematician, but also you will find a lucid discussion of the mean value theorem. There are anecdotes Boas told about many famous mathematicians, along with a large collection of his mathematical verses. You will find mathematical articles like a proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra and pedagogical articles giving Boas' views on making mathematics intelligible.
If you enjoy reading light, humorous vignettes about famous people-read this book.
If you like the short, humorous poetry of Ogden Nash or the snappy observations of Dorothy Parker-read this book.
If you just plain like mathematics- read this book!
This tribute to Ralph Philip Boas, a fine mathematician, also shares with the reader a much broader profile of a man who contributed to the mathematics community as editor, teacher, administrator, and insightful humorist. Included are many of his lighter mathematical papers, along with verse, stories, anecdotes, and recollections of his interactions with the most prominent mathematicians of 1930 to 1985. Perhaps the most important feature of this books is how it subtly makes the reader aware of the nature of mathematics... I highly recommend Lion Hunting and Other Mathematical Pursuits to high school mathematics clubs, mathematics teachers of all levels, and anyone interested in mathematics. The reader will want to red the book to find out what lion hunting has to do with mathematics!"
Read an Excerpt
As explained in the reminiscence of Frank Smithies earlier and in the autobiographical essay by Boas himself, the collection of methods for catching a lion that they published under the pseudonym, H. Petard, appeared in the American Mathematical Monthly in 1938. As is evident from the other articles in this section, the idea prompted a good many others to add to this literature. We include those articles of which we are aware- we make no claim that this is a complete compendium of contributions to this area of mathematics.
Princeton, New Jersey
This little known mathematical discipline has not, of recent years, received in the literature the attention which, in our opinion, it deserves. In the present paper we present some algorithms which, it is hoped, may be of interest to other workers in the field. Neglecting the more obviously trivial methods, we shall confine our attention to those which involve significant applications of ideas familiar to mathematicians and physicists.
The present time is particularly fitting for the preparation of an account of the subject, since recent advances both in pure mathematics and in theoretical physics have made available powerful tools whose very existence was unsuspected by earlier investigators. At the same time, some of the more elegant classical methods acquire new significance in the light of modern discoveries. Like many other branches of knowledge to which mathematical techniques have been applied in recent years, the Mathematical Theory of Big Game Hunting has a singularly happy unifying effect on the most diverse branches of the exact sciences.
For the sake of simplicity of statement, we shall confine our attention to Lions (Felis leo) whose habitat is the Sahara Desert. The methods which we shall enumerate will easily be seen to be applicable, with obvious formal modifications, to other carnivores and to other portions of the globe. The paper is divided into three parts, which draw their material respectively from mathematics, theoretical physics, and experimental physics.
The author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to the Trival Club of St. John's College, Cambridge, England; to the M.I.T. chapter of the Society for Useless Research; to the F.o.P., of Princeton University; and to numerous individual contributors, known and unknown, conscious and unconscious. 1. Mathematical Methods
The Hilbert, or Axiomatic Method. We place a locked cage at a given point of the desert. We then introduce the following logical system.
Axiom I. The class of lions in the Sahara Desert is non-void.
Axiom II. If there is a lion in the Sahara Desert, there is a lion in the cage.
Rule of Procedure. If p is a theorem, and "p implies q" is a theorem, then q is a theorem.
Theorem 1. There is a lion in the cage.
2. The Method of Inversive Geometry. We place a spherical cage in the desert, enter it, and lock it. We perform an inversion with respect to the cage. The lion is then in the interior of the cage, and we are outside. 3. The Method of Projective Geometry. Without loss of generality, we may regard the Sahara Desert as a plane. Project the plane into a line, and then project the line into an interior point of the cage. The lion is projected into the same point. 4. The Bolxano-Weierstrass Method. Bisect the desert by a line running N-S. The line is either in the E portion or the W portion; let us suppose him to be in the W portion. Bisect this portion by a line running E-W. The lion is either in the N portion or the S portion; let us suppose him to be in the N portion. We continue this process indefinitely, constructing a sufficiently strong fence about the chosen portion at each step. The diameter of the chosen portions approaches zero, so that the lion is ultimately surrounded by a fence of arbitrarily small perimeter. 5. The "Mengentheoretisch" Method. We observe that the desert is a separable space. It therefore contains an enumerable dense set of points, from which can be extracted a sequence having the lion as limit. We then approach the lion stealthily along this sequence, bearing with us suitable equipment. 6. The Peano Method. Construct, by standard methods, a continuous curve passing through every point of the desert. It has been remarked* that it is possible to traverse such a curve in an arbitrarily short time. Armed with a spear, we traverse the curve in a time shorter than that in which a lion can move his own length. 7. A Topological Method. We observe that a lion has at least the connectivity of the torus. We transport the desert into four-space. It is then possible ** to carry out such a deformation that the lion can be returned to three-space in a knotted condition. He is then helpless.
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