Fun_People Archive
20 May
Taylor Series - a matter of life or death

Date: Thu, 20 May 93 02:10:39 PDT
To: Fun_People
Subject: Taylor Series - a matter of life or death

 From: <>
 From: (Tom Duff)
 From: The Observer (UK) May 16[?]

math.or.death (td) Tue May 18 08:55:29 1993

	     Taylor Series - a matter of life or death

   Mathematics  can even be a matter of life or death. During the Russian
   revolution, the  mathematical  physicist  Igor  Tamm  was  seized  by
   anti-communist  vigilantes  at a village near Odessa where he had gone
   to barter for food. They suspected he was an  anti-Ukranian  communist
   agitator and dragged him off to their leader.

   Asked  what  he  did for a living he said that he was a mathematician.
   The sceptical gang-leader began to finger  the  bullets  and  grenades
   slung around his neck. "All right", he said, "calculate the error when
   the  Taylor  series  approximation  of a function is truncated after n
   terms. Do this and you will go free; fail and you will be shot".  Tamm
   slowly  calculated  the  answer in the dust with his quivering finger.
   When he had finished the bandit cast his eye over the answer and waved
   him on his way.

   Tamm  won  the  1958 Nobel prize for Physics but he never did discover
   the identity of the unusual bandit leader. But he found a sure way  to
   concentrate  his  students'  minds  on  the  practical  importance  of

[=] © 1993 Peter Langston []