## Archive for May 5, 2011

### The Humor and Poetry of Jims Maher

Yesterday, I received an email from Jims Maher containing the following joke, which he said he thought up yesterday in a real “facepalm” moment:

There used to be seven bridges in Königsberg.

Two were lost to war. Another two were demolished in peace.

So what does that leave us with?A slippery slope.

Coincidentally, Jims was also the only entrant in the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest. (I will assume that everyone chose not to submit an entry because I announced the contest on April 1, so all of you thought the contest was a joke. Please allow me to harbor this delusion — it’s easier on my ego that way.) Consequently, a signed copy of *MJ4MF* is on its way to Jims. He said that he plans to “put it to good use as a prize in some fundraiser.” I like your style, Jims!

Because enquiring minds want to know, here is Jims’ award-winning poem…

Start at OneNumbers are counted.

One, two, three…

But some numbers are skipped,

It’s plain to see.We never count zero

Because it’s not there.

And the imaginary numbers

Are as visible as air.It is only the natural numbers

That we will count,

From one on up

To any amount.However, the last number

Can never be known,

Because you can always add one,

However high that you go.And so we keep counting,

From one, to two, to three…

With the natural numbers we keep counting,

From one to infinity.

Forgive the commentary, but I could not help thinking about mathematical definitions when reading Jims’ poem. According to Wolfram MathWorld,

The term “natural number” refers either to a member of the set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …, or to the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …. Regrettably, there seems to be no general agreement about whether to include 0 in the set of natural numbers.

Similarly, the James and James *Mathematical Dictionary* gives three different definitions for *whole numbers*: The set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …; the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …; and the set of all positive and negative integers …, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ….