Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stay away from the center, then do a space inversion

Mathematicians tell a joke about setting parameters:

An emir had a daughter whom he loved dearly. "Such a treasure as this," he thought as he looked upon her, "can only be given to a great and cunning hero."

All the eligible young men were summoned to the courtyard of the palace. In the center of the courtyard they found a massive cast iron cage, with a great brass key in the lock.

From a high balcony, the Emir spoke:

"Out in the desert there is a gigantic lion. The people call him Al-Jabbar. Many have set out to kill or capture him. Not one has returned. I will give my daughter in marriage to the one who puts Al-Jabbar alive in this cage."

The young men were astonished. "It can't be done," some shouted. Many hung their heads and began to shuffle home. The most foolhardy or greedy ran to the market to buy weapons and rope.

Just then the son of the court mathematician got up from where he was sitting and walked up to great iron cage. Pushing with all his strength, he opened the great door. Then to everyone's surprise, he climbed inside the cage, closed the door behind him, locked the door and put the key in his pocket.

"Now," he declared in a confident voice, "Given the initial assumption that I am outside the cage..."

Prime Minister Koizumi seems to want to be the court mathematician's son as regards Yasukuni. "A single issue should not affect relations," he harrumphs as the leaders of China and South Korea continue to shun him. In Koizumi's view, Roh, Hu, Wen and anyone else unhappy with his visits to Yakukuni should just swallow their respective prides and take it....especially since Mr. K will be going to Yasukuni again in 2006.

Wouldn't be nice if we could just declare certain topics off limits and not have to deal with them anymore? What a wonderful, wonderful world it would be. Indeed, I think everyone should have the right to unilaterally declare a small number of unpleasant topics off limits. For example, when my employer calls me into his office next time, I think I should have the right to say, "Stop right there. My not doing as you instructed should not be the basis of our conversations today."

Wish me luck.

Oh, what happened to the mathematician's son? He and the princess were soon wed and they lived happily together until the end of their days.

At least that is the story the mathematicians tell.

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