Literature’s Greatest Opening Lines, as Written By Mathematicians

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38 thoughts on “Literature’s Greatest Opening Lines, as Written By Mathematicians

  1. “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

    Let G be a group. Then Dursley is a subgroup of G such that for all g in G, g * Dursley * g^(-1) = Dursley.

      1. Haha, thanks! It was a tough choice between that and “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley were proud to say that they were always perpendicular to the tangent plane of every surface on which they stood,” but I’m an algebra kind of guy and wasn’t about to miss a chance to go with groups.

        1. That doesn’t quite work, tho, no?

          I love nitpicking this kind of thing, so please accept my advanced apologies for the following, I know I overthink it, but that’s kind of the fun in it.

          * “The Dursleys”=the entire family, not just Vernon and Petunia, right? Hence, “Dursley” doesn’t quite work.
          * “The Dursleys” doesn’t quite refer to the same thing as just “Dursleys”, either, right?
          * Strictly speaking, they /were/ proud to say that they /were/ perfectly normal, past tense in both cases, right?
          * Since they themselves make this statement about themselves (or rather AT LEAST, their past selves), this seems to require some other kind of – somewhat self-referential – statement, no?

          Quite the pickle… ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. โ€œMr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were distributed as
      f ( x | ฮผ , ฯƒ ) = {(1/ฯƒ(2ฯ€)^(.5))}exp{et cetera}”

  2. All children grow up theorem disproved by counter-example.

    The Road, Cormac McCarthy
    “You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
    seems to be begging for some DeMorgan style set theory.

    1. Kind of like this opening epigram from La Rochefoucauld and comment from the translator/editor?

      “Our virtues are most frequently but vices disguised.”

      [This epigraph which is the key to the system of La Rochefoucauld, is found in another form as No. 179 of the maxims of the first edition, 1665, it is omitted from the 2nd and 3rd, and reappears for the first time in the 4th edition, in 1675, as at present, at the head of the Reflections.โ€”Aimรฉ Martin. Its best answer is arrived at by reversing the predicate and the subject, and you at once form a contradictory maxim equally true, our vices are most frequently but virtues disguised.]

  3. Once upon a time (โˆƒ t โˆˆ Time) there was a little girl (0<girl<ฯต) called ฯต-red riding hood.

      1. Applying Newton’s law of cooling: dT/dt = k(T – T_env) the coffecient k will depend on the volume of porridge in each bowl.. At time $t*$ the $k$ associated with baby-bear’s bowl was such that T(t*) was “just right.”

  4. For the Peter Pan one, I prefer: Theorem: there exists a unique child who does not grow up. And for A Tale of Two Cities: P and not P (credit to a colleague for the latter).

    1. Proof.
      1. There exists a child, Peter Pan, and Peter Pan is a child. (See Lemma from J.M. Barrie).
      3. Peter Pan does not grow up, by the previous Lemma.
      4. Suppose there exists another child, X, such that X /= Peter Pan, and X does not grow up.

      X == Peter Pan, a contradiction.

  5. American Psycho:

    “There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.”

    Let X be a topological space and V a open neighbourhood of a point pb in the X. Consider X’ = X \ {pb}

  6. Don Quijote
    “En un lugar de La Mancha de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme…”
    Don Quixote lived somewhere in La Mancha. I have a really marvelous proof of this, but there is not space enough in this margin to write it.

  7. One fish
    Two fish
    Red fish
    Blue fish.

    $(Fish_1, Fish_2, Fish_{Red}, Fish_{Blue})$

    I assume Seuss had in mind a sequence, not a set!

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