17 July 2004

mathematical pi

here is another half remembered nostalgia moment. They all seem half remembered these days!
About 1952, one of the masters started up a magazine if that isn't too grand a word which was meant to popularise mathematics. It was called Mathematical Pie, and had a little poetic jingle introducing it which started off something like "Is the fallacy true that one equals two" and went on in similar vein.
Does anyone remember it?


  1. Yes, I seem to remember Mathematical Pi: in particular
    I remember a "competition" to think of a pun whereby a mathematical
    instrument, term or phrase was also an animal.  I racked my brains, and
    came up with - nothing!  The winning entry was a fox - a "sly drooler",
    which I thought very good.  This particular piece of wit, of course would
    be lost on the current generation.


    Andy Brown AKA Joe (1961 - 68)

  2. Dear Jim   I recall it. About the time you said, Southampton University began their own house magazine called "Pi" - an event announced by Doc at assembly. On the first page of the complimentary copy handed out afterward was the following verse:-   "Little Jack Horner sat in a corner reading mathematical 'Pi' Is the fallacy true that one equals two? It can't be, or is it? -Well try!"   Regards   Churchie

  3.     that's what I like, shared memories! I realise I am not the only one with this store of odd thoughts. It is interesting to hear that the magazine lasted for at least ten years Andy. And it took me a moment to 'get' the pun! Now if your talking about mechanical aids for computation you'll get me started on the machine we used in the Winchester City Engineer's department in 1957 to carry out precise multiplication and division. It looked like an Enigma encryptor and involved winding a handle until the calculation was finished when a bell used to ring. It could work to about twelve or more significant figures if I remember rightly and was considered to be the ultimate in modernity.  I used it to calculate the apportionment of the cost for the individual frontagers when we 'made up' Vernham private road in about 1959.  As you say, I doubt if many of today's youngsters would credit it. Hi Churchie, your going to tell me that you still have a copy of the magazine? In any case you are definitely not in line for that memory disease that I can't remember the name of!    best regards,   jim  

  4. Jim,


    During my training, I worked in the Efficiency
    Department at Earley Power Station, Reading (now the site of the Oracle and
    Microsoft offices).  One of the monthly tasks was to work out the STEP
    (Station Thermal Efficiency Performance) factor, a vast series of calculations
    which produced a figure like 97.53% (Target heat as a function of actual heat),
    and we were using the same sort of mechanical calculator as you describe as
    late as 1971.  I would love to show something like this to my kids!  There
    was an electric calculator at (the then new) Didcot Power Station: it was the
    size of a small suitcase, plugged into the mains and took several minutes to
    warm up.  How much things have changed!



  5. Hi There !!!
    A 'Sly Drool' huh ... you trying to fox us all ???
    I still have a couple of 'Sly Drools' in my 'Memorabilia' drawer in my 'personal' cupboard here in Western Australia (probably worth a fortune now !!! )...
    I remember my Apprenticeship Years at Pirelli's in Eastleigh, when I spent 6 months in the 'Estimating Technical' Department (1954-1955) ... the 'Major' technical equipment being used was the 'Conical' Sly Drool (as opposed to the, at that time, 'Flat' Sly Drool) ... I seem to remember doing calculations correct to the 6th.decimal place !!! ... oh my God, how Science had advanced !!! ... (NOT knocking in any way ... just looking back to the way it was !!!)
    I am SURE that other Old Symondians can relate to similar advancements in Technology (Peter Smith comes to mind ... SORRY Peter if I have 'dobbed' you in) ... it might be interesting to hear from people who can relate to this situation ...
    Please take care all of you ...
    All the best from Western Australia ...
    Doug Clews

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