Paul Erdos, currently most prolific mathematician in history, is always

making jokes about how old he is. (He says, for example, that he is two and

a half billion years old, because in his youth the age of the Earth was

known to be two billion years and now it is known to be 4.5 billion years.)

He observed one day that the audiences at his talks had been getting larger

and larger, to the point where they filled halls so big that his old and

feeble voice could not be heard. Erdos speculated as to the cause of this.

"I think," he said, "it must be that everyone wants to be able to say 'I

remember Erdos; why, I even attended his last lecture!'"

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Paul Erdos (Hungarian mathematician, 1913-1996) had his own particular

language:

* Supreme Fascist = God (Also abbreviated as SF)

(person who hides Erdös's socks, glasses, Hungarian passport and kept the

best equations to himself)

* straight from the book = beautiful, elegant proof

(from the book of the SF)

* boss = woman

* slave = man

* captured = married

* liberated = divorced

* recaptured = remarried

* epsilon = child (for the mathematical symbol)

= a little

* to preach = to give a math lecture

* to exist = to do math

* to die = to stop doing math

* trivial being = Someone who does not do math

* to leave = to die

* to arrive = to be born

* Joe = USSR (for Joseph Stalin)

* Sam = USA (for Uncle Sam)

* Sam and Joe show= International news

* Ned = Australia (for Ned Kelly, a famous Australian

bandit from the 19th century)

* János = Hungary (for János Kádár, ruler of Hungary 1956-1988)

* On the long wavelength = communist (for red)

* On the short wavelength = fascist (opposite of red)

* noise = music

* poison = alcohol

* my brain is open = I am ready to do mathematics

* what was that when it was alive? = what kind of meat is that?

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Paul Erdos (Hungarian mathematician, 1913-1996) had the habbit of phoning

fellow mathematicians over the whole world, no matter what time it was. He

remembered the number of every mathematician, but did not know anybody's

first name. The only person he called by his Christian name was Tom

Trotter, whom he called Bill.

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On one occasion, Erdos met a mathematician and asked him where he was

from. "Vancouver," the mathematician replied. "Oh, then you must know my

good friend Elliot Mendelson," Erdös said.

The reply was "I AM your good friend Elliot Mendelson."

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"There was a storm with thunder and lightening. Little Paul Erdos was in

bed, frightened and fretting and his mother couldn't calm him. Then, as

mothers seem to instinctively do, she found the right words. "It's all

right dear", she said, stroking his shiny head, "there's always a prime

between n and 2n".

After that, little Paul drifted off into a blissful sleep."

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Ernst Eduard Kummer (1810-1893), a German algebraist, was rather poor at

arithmetic. Whenever he had occasion to do simple arithmetic in class, he

would get his students to help him. Once he had to find 7 x 9. "Seven

times nine," he began, "Seven times nine is er -- ah --- ah -- seven times

nine is. . . ." "Sixty-one," a student suggested. Kummer wrote 61 on the

board. "Sir," said another student, "it should be sixty-nine." "Come,

come, gentlemen, it can't be both," Kummer exclaimed. "It must be one or

the other."

Paul Erdos had another version of this story, how Kummer calculated 7 x 9:

Kummer said to himself: "Hmmm the product cannot be 61, because 61 is

prime, it cannot be 65, because 65 is a multiple of 5, 67 is a prime, 69 is

too big - Only 63 is left."