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Is That Anything Like Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing?


I know I’m supposed to know what Wednesday’s Google doodle is supposed to represent.

Maybe if I stare at it longer….

Those of you who paid attention in school undoubtedly recognize Fermat’s Last Theorem, know that in 1637 Fermat scribbled a note on the margin of a page in a text that said he’d “discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain,” but never actually wrote it down anyplace that anyone could find it. And you know that it took 358 years for someone else to solve it.

YOU know that. Me?  I… well, I was a Political Science major. I specialized in taking courses where all you had to do to pass was to write a term paper. I was good at term papers; Filling space with irrelevant noise is what I do best. Math? Not so much. So, on what would have been the 410th birthday of (a very feeble, if he’d lived that long) Pierre de Fermat, Google’s celebration today of his life and most famous contribution to mathematics sailed over my head. But it shouldn’t have. After all, there are people who suspect that Fermat hadn’t really discovered the proof after all, that his boast was just full of it.

I can relate to that.

HT: Matthew Grosinger

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  1. Ian says:

    I’d never heard of it until I read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Lisbeth Salander obsessed over that theorem through a good bit of The Girl Who Played with Fire. Now Daniel Craig is starring in those movies since he’s done playing with 13 in Cowboys and Aliens and has to wait for MGM to stop making bankruptcy happen so he can do Bond. So maybe the reason for Google doing Fermat has something to do with the recent interest sparked by those books. Just an idea… Probably not a very good one.

  2. intrigued says:

    X to the nth power plus Y to the nth power does not equal Z to the nth power if n were greater than 2.
    Combine that with his written statement of :
    discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.
    The second half lends me to believe he was using the word margin in the financial sense which would then throw a remainder into the equation. i truly dont believe its actually solved . especially with the way its worded how it was done. By “circumventing a very fundemental gap” with “the help of his former student”.. so he technically never did solve it by himself..if at all…..DUN DUN DDDDAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!ddddaalalalalalalaalalahahalhalhalalahlahalhalahh(ala family guy)

  3. eric says:

    Numbers are like clowns–they scare me!

  4. Arieh says:

    I’m in my third year of studying maths, and this my favorite theorem there is. Not only because it looks so cool, but because it encapsulates the beauty of mathematics right there and then. The idea that no number to a power can be split up into two numbers of the same power is an idea that took centuries to prove, but the case when the power is equal to 2 is so simple, most elementary students know it off by heart as the Pythagoran theorem (The square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of it the squares of its opposite and adjacent sides). That proof is relatively simple and can be done in various ways, but the theorem above has the distinction of being the statement with the “most number of incorrect proofs” attached to it., so when it finally was proven, it was a really great day all round. #NEEEERRRRDDDDD

  5. Rachel Cutler says:

    It made my eyes glaze over like when I was in high school and my algebra teacher was more interested in figuring this out than actually teaching her students.

  6. Matthew Burnside says:

    How did I not notice this?! That’s a great proof!

  7. Anonymous Burrito says:

    Google should’ve crammed parts of Wiles’ proof into the margins of their search results.