rlfj: Blog

Back to rlfj's Blog

Chapter 16

March 20, 2015
Posted at 1:23 pm

Needs a spine - 8
Doing fine - 22

That's the count for my little survey. I got back quite a few more comments but I only counted the ones that specifically answered the question. I will admit that Grim does suffer from a lack of self-confidence, and the mistaken belief that you need to be really smart to go to college. I don't think either are great character flaws, just part of the process of growing up. We'll just have to wait and see.

One error I made was in regard to the Chunnel. I stated that the O'Connors had to detrain at Calais and then take a different train to Paris. This was in error. There are two passenger train systems going through the Chunnel. EuroTunnel has terminals on each side of the English Channel, near Folkestone and Calais, and this is for vehicle traffic. You want to drive your car around, drive to Folkestone, take a EuroTunnel train across the channel, and unload in Calais to motor along. There is a second passenger-only system called EuroStar with trains that go direct from London to Paris or Brussels. A quick edit fixed this. Thank you, adamstclare.

A number of people wrote about there not being a Nobel Prize in Mathematics. Quick report: Alfred Nobel, of dynamite fame, created five prizes in 1901, Chemistry, Physics, Peace, Physiology/Medicine, and Literature. Most of these are handed out by Sweden, except for Peace, which is handed out by Norway. In 1968 a sixth prize was established, for Economics. For those who wrote that one or the other of these is as good as a Nobel for math, because they are all math anyway; no, sorry, it doesn't work that way.

There are two math prizes which are considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel for Mathematics. The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to the best mathematicians under the age of 40. The Abel Prize is granted annually and has no age restriction. Both have significant cash awards, much like the Nobels.

There has been a persistent rumor that Nobel never created a prize for Mathematics because a mathematician, Magnus Gösta Mittag-Leffler, was having an affair with his wife. Sounds interesting, but Nobel never married. Another rumor was that the two men simply didn't like each other, and when Nobel asked his advisers if Mittag-Leffler would win the first prize and was told he probably would, simply declared no math prize. Again, the timing and age of the two men precludes that they ever had any personal relationship. The more mundane explanation is that Nobel was a very practical chemist, and simply didn't think math was important.

- rlfj