Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Fermat Solution

Eekhout pondered his solution, it was elegant, very elegant, he was pleased with this morning's deliberations. A simple solution to Fermat's Last Theorem. Short enough that even the eminent Pierre de Fermat might have scribbled it in the margin of some ancient manuscript. Nice.

Back in the late twentieth-century, three centuries ago, when a solution was first proposed, no normal person could understand it. None but the most hardcore mathematician grasped its real significance. Eekhout solution would have been understood by any twentieth-century geek. Nice.

Leaning against the cold tiled wall he dreamed of fame and glory, accolades and prizes; and a nice swanky office here on the 32nd floor of the Wiles Mathematics Department.

“What you doing?” Swanwick, his boss, growled.

“Sir.” Eekhout straightened himself up. If he had not been daydreaming he might have heard his boss coming, such was Swanwick's thundering ponderous walk.

“Think you're some kind of genius do you? Well I can tell you: there are hundreds like you. Not worth nothing.”

Eekhout grabbed his mop and started pushing it around the floor in aimless circles, following some random path. He did so wish he was back in the twenty-first century. Then he would have been considered a great scientist, would have won the Nobel Prize or something. But they had stopped giving those out when every school kid was getting one for their end of term paper. That's progress, he supposed.

Swanwick wobbled with indignation. “You want this job? Do you? Well, get that mop moving.”

Swanwick wasn't so bad, not so long as you kept quite during one of his rants. Later on, in the staff cubbyhole, he'd have forgotten all about it and, if Eekhout was really lucky, be almost pleasant.

Eekhout loved working at the university, in building 704, up here on the 32nd floor, just being around all those wonderful minds, and he did not want to give that up. Even if it did mean having to clean the toilets. To have done a proper job here, something recognisable, you'd have to do a bit better than solve Fermat's Last Theorem – yet again. Such feats were so commonplace.

* * *

With Swanwick gone Eekhout could relax once more. He lent against the cold tiles again, mop in hand just in case, and began to ponder his other favourite subjects; some that were even more perplexing. You'd think, with all those so very superior minds, they'd find a better method of cleaning urine off the floor. Mop and bucket: so very old fashioned. Eekhout had other theorems to ponder: why couldn't all those great minds aim straight? Why did they keep missing the toilets?

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