How To Trap A Zoid

We should all be grateful that we have mathematics. For example, without mathematics, it would be almost impossible to figure out what size tip you should leave. Even with mathematics, this is very difficult. The mathematical formula for tipping, which was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton, states that the tip equals 15 percent of the bill, but unfortunately the bill is always $17.43, and nobody has the vaguest idea what 15 percent of $17.43 is. The finest brains in the country have been working on this problem for years, using large computers, and they have yet to come up with an answer. So most of us wind up tipping a random amount of money, usually $3.50, which we increase slightly if the waiter performs an extra service, such as not spitting in the food. And that’s just one of the ways we use mathematics in our everyday lives.

Mathematics got started in ancient Egypt, when the ancient Egyptians discovered the numbers three and eight. They used these numbers to develop the mathematical formulas for the pyramids, which were actually supposed to be spherical. Eventually people in other countries discovered more numbers, and today we have more than ten thousand of them.

After the discovery of numbers, the next major stride in mathematics came when the ancient Greeks discovered the hypotenuse. The Greeks used the hypotenuse to manufacture right triangles for export tO other countries. Included free with each triangle was a copy of the famous Pythagorean Theorem (named for its discoverer, Bob Theorem), which states: “Some of the squares of the opposite sides are equal to 14.6

percent of your grossly adjusted annual unearned interest, unless there are two or more runners on base at the time.” To this very day, children memorize the Pythagorean Theorem in school, which accounts for their behavior.

The ancient Greeks made so much money with the right triangle that they developed a whole line of mathematical items, such as the rhomboid, the pentagon, the diameter, the parabola, the hyperbole, the irrational number, the cube, the really deranged number, and the square root. In fact, the ancient Greeks developed all the really popular items; everything developed since then has failed miserably. Take algebra. I don’t know who dreamed up algebra, but whoever it was obviously had a lot of time to waste, because it is utterly useless. In algebra class, day after day, the teacher would write something like this on the blackboard:

4x + 2 = 14

Then he would ask us what x stood for. It turns out that it stood for 3, but how the hell were we supposed to know that? He was the one who dreamed up x in the first place, and it seemed grossly unfair for him to expect us to know what he was thinking of at the time. And to make matters worse, the next day he would have x equal some other number, such as 4, depending on his mood. I spent an entire year in algebra class, and to this day I don’t have the faintest notion what x stands for, which is why I hardly ever use it for anything.

Calculus is even worse. When I went to college, all of us freshmen had to take a semester of calculus. It was like a fraternity initiation. The professor, who wore a bow tie and grew up on another planet, would start the class with a statement like this: “Let us consider the problem of a helix uncoiling in n dimensions.” He never told us why this was a problem, or why anybody would want to consider it even if it was. He would merely turn around and start filling the blackboard with alien symbols, and he would keep it up until it was time to leave. Every now and then he would give us a test, and I always got a zero. In fact,

“zero” was the only mathematical concept I ever understood in calculus class.

I decided to quit calculus the day I stabbed myself in the head with Jeff White’s pencil. Jeff sat next to me in class, and to amuse ourselves while the professor was writing alien symbols on the blackboard we would play childish pranks on each other. One day Jeff tried to knock my books off my desk, so I grabbed them with one hand and, with the other hand, snatched Jeff’s pencil, which I attempted to break by smashing it against my head, only I didn’t get the angle right, so I ended up driving the point into my skull, where it broke off. This created quite a commotion, but the professor was deeply engrossed in the problem of a trapezoid rotating in y dimensions, and he didn’t even notice the problem of a student with a pencil point lodged in his skull . So Jeff and I just got up and walked over to the infirmary.

The nurse was very suspicious. She said: “Are you telling me that you stabbed yourself in the head with a pencil?” Then she looked very suspiciously at Jeff. Jeff said, defensively: “Really. He stabbed himself.” And the nurse said: “Why would anybody stab himself with a pencil?” And so I stared suspiciously at Jeff, and said: “Yeah, why would I stab myself with a pencil?”

Anyway, the nurse got the pencil point out of my skull, but I didn’t go back to calculus class ever again. Jeff dropped out of college a short while later, although I’m pretty sure this had nothing to do with the pencil incident. I suspect it had a lot more to do with calculus.