You know, that Stoppard fella's a proper education, so he is! Amongst the many brilliant plays that Tom Stoppard has written there is an absolute gold mine of information on an enormous range of scientific and philosophical subjects and he slips them in so easily you can just swallow them whole. For example, Fermat's Last Theorem - yeeeeees, quite!

Let us start at the beginning. Pierre de Fermat was a massive, 17th century maths swot of the first order. Amongst many other great insights he offered the following theorem based on the one by Pythagoras that you all learned at 'skool' - er, you did learn it didn't you? You know, the one about right angled triangles where the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the squares on the other two sides. This, in 'maths-speak', is usually written thus:

a^{2 }+ b^{2} = c^{2}

Now that works alright so long as the multiplier *is no bigger than 2*. Anything bigger than that and it fails and it will *always* fail and Pierre 'cleverclogs' Fermat proved it but, alas and *quelle domage*, as he scribbled in one of his notebooks, he lacked the space to write it out! Cue several centuries of sweat and swearing by sundry maths swots desperate to find Fermat's proof. In recent years several institutes of high learning have offered prize money to anyone who could offer such a proof. At this point, enter Prof. Sir Andrew Wiles, currently at Oxford University, who, according to *The Telegraph*, has been awarded £500,000 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for having done so. Frankly, I think he deserves double that!

Originally I came across this abstruse subject via the good, no, the *brilliant* mind of Sir Tom Stoppard and his play *Arcadia *which, if you have not seen, then you must - and that's an order!

Duffers - he wrote that he had thought of a very clever proof. However, as I gather that a number of brilliant people have proposed proofs down the centuries which subsequently turned out not to be watertight it is quite possible he was mistaken.

Wiles' proof is horrendous, opening up whole new fields of maths, so it is my theory, unproven (!), that Fermat's proof was probably not as solid as he hoped.

It is also possible and maybe even likely that somebody will find a neater easier proof in future, and it is also entirely possible that I am talking bollocks!

Posted by: Cuffleyburgers | Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 12:06

"Now that works alright so long as the multiplier is no bigger than 2."

[pedant mode]That's not a multiplier, it's an exponent[/smart alec]

Posted by: Frank | Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 12:34

'Smart Alecs' are always welcome here, Frank, because there is such a dearth of them!

Posted by: David Duff | Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 13:50

when the subject is 'maff', well I'm lost.

Posted by: Whitewall | Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 16:29

Having solved that conundrum does one then fire three rounds for effect? Or just retire to the nearest Ward Room/Mess/Pub?

Too much interlekchual stuff for this hour of the morning.

Happy St.Padraig's Day. Well it is here anyway.

Posted by: AussieD | Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 23:20

AussieD,

You do know that Paddy was a Welshman, Don't you?

Posted by: Penseivat | Thursday, 17 March 2016 at 10:42

What Frank said.

I was puzzled for a mo as I couldn't see a multiplier anywhere there.

I knew what you meant tho!

Posted by: Andrew Duffin | Thursday, 17 March 2016 at 12:21