When I Die…

August 23, 2012 at 10:19 am Leave a comment

Did you hear about Tommy Lasorda’s wish? The retired manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers is recovering from a heart attack he suffered in June, and he recently told the L. A. Times:

I’ve already told my wife that when I do go, I want our home schedule attached to my tombstone. I want people who are in the cemetery visiting their loved ones to say, “Let’s go to Lasorda’s grave and see if the Dodgers are playing home or away.”

That could get expensive, since it would have to be updated annually. I suggest one of these instead:

Old baseball players never die; they just go batty.

Old baseball players never die; they just do one more lap around the bases.

Old baseball players never die; they just get traded to the Blue Jays. (Sorry, Toronto!)

This got me thinking about what I’d want on my tombstone when I leave.

Don’t meet my end with gasps and shrieks;
I left you with a book (and blog) for geeks.

Given the likelihood of my eternal destination, I take comfort in the following advice:

Go to Heaven for the climate,
to Hell for the company.

Contemplating what should appear on my tombstone puts me in good company. Many mathematicians have pondered the same question.

At age 18, Carl Friedrich Gauss showed that it was possible to draw a regular 17‑gon with compass and straightedge. Proud of his accomplishment, he later requested that a 17‑gon be inscribed on his tombstone. Although his wish was not granted, a memorial to him in his hometown of Braunschweig, Germany, now bears a small 17‑gon just below his right foot.

Gauss 17-Gon

Imagine a sphere inscribed in a cylinder whose height is equal to its diameter. Archimedes discovered that the ratio of the surface area of the cylinder to the surface area of the sphere is 3:2 and also that the ratio of the volume of the cylinder to the volume of the sphere is 3:2. Despite his many accomplishments in mathematics, this is the one for which he wished to be remembered. He asked that a cylinder with inscribed sphere be displayed on his tombstone, with the ratio 3:2 inside.

Jacob Bernoulli was so enamored with the logarithmic spiral that he wanted one inscribed on his tombstone. Unfortunately, the engraver mistakenly carved an Archimedean spiral (shown below).

Archimedean Spiral

An apocryphal story is that the following poem appears on the tombstone of Diophantus. In fact, this problem appeared in a fifth-century Greek anthology of puzzles.

Here lies Diophantus, the wonder behold.
Through art algebraic, the stone tells how old:
“God gave him his boyhood one-sixth of his life,
One-twelfth more as youth while whiskers grew rife;
And then yet one-seventh ere marriage begun;
In five years there came a bouncing new son.
Alas, the dear child of master and sage
After attaining half the measure of his father’s life, chill fate took him.
After consoling his fate by the science of numbers for four years, he ended his life.”

Good luck solving the puzzle before you meet your end!

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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