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June 16, 2015

Dream chalk

Why Mathematicians Are Hoarding This Special Type of Japanese Chalk

This spring, an 80-year-old Japanese chalk company went out of business. Nobody, perhaps, was as sad to see the company go as mathematicians who had become obsessed with Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk, the so-called “Rolls Royce of chalk.”

With whiteboards and now computers taking over classrooms, the company’s demise seemed to mark the end of an era.

Being neither a mathematician nor a chalk artist, I heard about Hagoromo through my friend Dan, a mathematician finishing up his Ph.D. at Stanford. He recently appeared on a Japanese TV special about the demise of Hagoromo Bungu Co., where a TV crew came out to Stanford to interview mathematicians about the legendary chalk. One professor described hoarding enough of the stuff to keep him in chalk for the next 15 years. Dan is in the special too, calling the end of Hagoromo “a tragedy for mathematics.”

[...] Satyan Devadoss, a Williams College math professor, even wrote a blog post calling it “dream chalk.” He explained:

There have been rumors about a dream chalk, a chalk so powerful that mathematics practically writes itself; a chalk so amazing that no incorrect proof can be written using this chalk. I can finally say, after months of pursuit, that such a chalk indeed exists.

How could mere chalk inspire such hyperbole?

H.T. Paul B

Posted by joke du jour at June 16, 2015 06:02 PM

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