Do you know the number 142857?
No. I didn’t think so, and why the hell should you?
Normal people are out enjoying themselves, getting drunk, singing songs, having fun, talking small-talk while fuckers like me are finding out about 142857. What a sad bastard. Even my beloved Bullet, who by the way is sixteen today and no longer a child, looks at me in pity and says
You know what, Bock, you are indeed a nerd and a geek.
I’m not a fucking geek, I bark, and punch him in his expensive orthodontised teeth.
All right then, he mumbles through globbing blood-dribbles. A nerd.
Happy birthday, Bullet. (Bullet is out of the country at the moment on a heavily subsidised foreign holiday, the bastard.)
Where was I? Oh yes: 142857.
Did you ever come across Ramanujan?
Well, Srinivasa Ramanujan was a great Indian mathematician, who went to Britain in 1914 at the age of 27 to research mathematics at Cambridge under GH Hardy. He was a natural genius but a rather intense young fellow. He was also unwell with a curable, but undiagnosed, liver disease and he found life in wartime England difficult for a vegetarian. He didn’t last long, and by 1920 poor Ramanujan was dead, at the age of 32, but by then he’d produced thousands of mathematical conjectures that gave rise to an academic industry that spawned thousands of PhDs. Good old Ramanujan.
Just before his final return to India, when Ramanujan was very ill, Hardy called to see him. They struggled for conversation until Hardy, desperate for something to talk about, made a chance comment about his taxi’s number.
I say, Ramanujan, old boy. That taxi had the most uninteresting number I’ve ever come across.
Ramanujan, close to death, sat up in his bed. Really? What was it?
Oh, I believe it was 1729.
Ramanujan forgot his fatal illness. Oh, no no no!! That is a most interesting number. 1729 is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that level of engagement disturbing. I do really. Get a grip, Ramanujan. Get a life!
Where was I?
Oh yeah. 142857.
Well, you see, the strange thing about 142857 is that if you multiply it by 2, you get 285714.
So what? Well, if you look at it closely, you’ll notice that the answer is the same numbers in the same order, but moved along a little bit, but that’s not the only strange thing.
If you multiply it by 3, you’ll see that the result is 428571, which is also the same numbers in the same order. And if you do the same with 4, 5 and 6, you’ll observe exactly the same thing.
How fucking strange.
I invite you to check this, and then to multiply it by 7.
Get a grip, Bock. Get a fucking life!
Mathematically-inclined smart bastards need not necessarily feel the need to make snide comments about this.