Archive for May 1, 2015

Math and Prolific Writers in the 21st Century

The FAQ at the Folger Shakespeare Library, referencing Martin Spevack, claims that Shakespeare’s complete works consist of 884,647 words. Open Source Shakespeare claims that his complete works consist of 884,421 words. Whatever. I’m not going to split hairs over one-twentieth of a percent.

What do you get if you add 1 rabbit + ½ rabbit + ¼ rabbit + … ?
Two rabbits, but that’s just splitting hares.

Those numbers got me thinking. Shakespeare — or whichever “secret author(s)” actually wrote all that stuff — is often considered to be one of the most prolific authors of all time.

Yet here’s my typical annual output over the last 5 years.

Category Number Approximate Word Length
Email – Short 500 10
Email – Medium 1,500 100
Email – Long 50 1,000
Facebook Post 50 50
Blog Post 70 600
Journal Article 1 2,000
Math Joke Book 1/5 12,000

That translates to over 250,000 words a year, which means that I write the equivalent of Shakespeare’s 37 plays and 154 sonnets in about 42 months.

I mean, sure, Shakespeare’s typical lines are something like

For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told

whereas a line from my typical email is more like

I’d like to see the storyboard for the Featherless Birds interactive by the end of the week

but I’m not talking about quality here. I’m only referring to quantity.

And in that regard, Will, you got nothing.

Of course, he does deserve props for his occasional reference to math:

There is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death.
— The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, Scene 1

And whether deliberate or not, he had a penchant for 2 × 7:

So, sure, maybe William Shakespeare was not as prolific as I am. Or, for that matter, as prolific as most 21st century office workers who sit in a cubicle, stare at a screen, and bang on a keyboard all day. But he was pretty cool.

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

May 1, 2015 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

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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May 2015

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