April 4, 2014 1 Comment
On average, an Asian elephant weighs anything from three to five tonnes. Their African brothers are larger and heavier still, weighing anything up to and in excess of seven tonnes (7000kg). And yet, these incredible beasts are often successfully controlled by nothing more than a short stake and a piece of rope.
Understanding this phenomenon is essential to securing a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th.
To begin to grasp why elephants are so reluctant to break free of the shackles that bind them we must first introduce ourselves with a little known mathematical scientist, called George Bernard Dantzig.
In 1939, Dantizig was a doctoral candidate at Berkeley with a tendency to oversleep. One morning, late once more for a grad level statistics class, Danzig encountered two problems written on the board.
Dantzig takes up the story, in an interview for the College Mathematics Journal:
I arrived late one day at one of [Jerzy] Neyman’s classes. On the blackboard there were two problems that I assumed had been assigned for homework. I copied them down. A few days later I apologized to Neyman for taking so long to do the homework — the problems seemed to be a little harder than usual. I asked him if he still wanted it. He told me to throw it on his desk. I did so reluctantly because his desk was covered with such a heap of papers that I feared my homework would be lost there forever. About six weeks later, one Sunday morning about eight o’clock, [my wife] Anne and I were awakened by someone banging on our front door. It was Neyman. He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited: “I’ve just written an introduction to one of your papers… To make a long story short, the problems on the blackboard that I had solved thinking they were homework were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics. That was the first inkling I had that there was anything special about them.