“An aliquot is a number which can be divided evenly into another number!” shouted Hal and Rick Ursion concurrently.
“OOP!” Sham recalled. He quickly set the detonator’s timing device to a suitably large prime number, giving them time to defuse the situation before the counter hit ‘1’. It was all over in record time.
“Congratulations, Sham,” Hal remarked. “Got out of a heap of trouble with minimal Risc.” He knocked his hand against the calculator as Rick led Lynn Kedlist away.
“What happens to them?” Sham queried in reference to the others.
“Uhmmm, looks like Lynn reveals the identities of some CPU members… the CPU gets locked away… oh, this is good though. Rick Ursion changes the ALU to RAM, Rick’s Amusing Mathematics. Talks a lot about interesting principles and inspires a lot of students.”
“Great!” Sham declared. “… so why haven’t I looped?”
“Well, if you recall, things were already going to work out before you changed them and made them better,” Hal reminded. “Helping the ALU wasn’t your reason for being here.”
“Uh, we’re still working on it,” Hal admitted.
Sham threw up his hands. “There must be a hex on me.”
The afternoon of July 20th found Sham grading C papers when Hal suddenly appeared. “We’ve figured it out!” he pronounced. His handlink made a noise. “Okay, BigE’s figured it out,” Hal relented. “You know, I think the E stands for Ego, darn computer sent an interrupt as I was having a private moment with Xina…”
“Hal, can we settle arguments after I’ve looped?” Sham pressed.
“Oh, sure Sham. Well, it seems you looped in on a mathNEWS publication day, which should have tipped us off. Maybe you’ve seen it around? Anyway, you just need to include an article which will inspire the whole idea of RAM that eventually leads one student to unparalleled greatness.”
“You’re kidding. Like what, information about divisibility…?”
“No, no, that’s been done to death. Something like… ‘the first number with the letter ‘a’ in it is one thousand’.”
“That will inspire someone to great heights?”
“I’m just reading suggestions off the link. Or how about that the only number with all it’s letters in alphabetical order is for… for…”
Hal hit the link. “Forty.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“This is mathNEWS. Just write some things down and do some BLACK BOX testing on the third floor. You’ll be inspiring someone to a Nobel Prize in Mathematics!”
“Hal, there is no Nobel Prize in Mathematics,” Sham observed.
Hal shrugged. “You get the idea.”
Sham sighed, pondering for a while before finally jotting down some options. He proceeded downstairs and started dropping paper into the box. Hal watched as ‘8 pints in a gallon’ and ’69 is the same upsidedown as rightside up’ went in. “I hope the last one’s more unique,” he noted.
Sham grimaced, dropped in his final sheet… and looped away in a blue haze. Sitting in the box was a slip of paper containing some simple words: ‘Take a number between 6 and 12. Square it. If the number you have is odd, add one. Add all digits in your number until there is one digit left. Subtract one. Take this number modulus 4. The result is how much sense this series was intended to make.’
–Greg “hologrami” Taylor
[That concludes the Summer 1998 run of “Quantum Loop” in volume 77 of mathNEWS. This serial would later return in Fall 1999, during volume 81, hence the “Next” option. Hope you enjoyed; I like to think Sham’s departure here was due more to quantity than quality.]