Author: mathtans

Writer and high school mathematics teacher.

Quantum Loop: Entry 2e

Hal looked up from his calculator. “The lucky numbers? They’re similar to the prime numbers. You start by striking out all the even numbers. Then after 1 you have a 3, so you strike out every third number. That gets rid of 5, 11, 17, etc. Now after 3 you have a 7, so take out every seventh number, and so on.”

“Oh, right,” Sham recalled. “13 is the fifth lucky number then, isn’t it?”

“Oddly enough, yeah,” Hal confirmed. “But you don’t have triskaidekaphobia, do you?”

Sham blinked. “That’s like paraskavedekatriaphobia, isn’t it?”

Hal shrugged. “Not quite. Look it up.” He punched at his calculator. “But it doesn’t look like that will work either. Your higher dimensions on the sixth floor are never used as extra space for terminals. You’ll have to try something else.”

Sham frowned. “Would the odds improve if I provided the mapping information directly?”

“We have zip on that,” Hal indicated.

“There’s that big room right in the middle – how about I just place some sort of device near that location which will activate in 1999?”

“Well, it would be difficult constructing it with the technology of this decade,” Hal said, nonplussed.

“It’s better than restarting,” Sham insisted. “Go get the Quantum Loop staff and BigE to work on it.”

“I think you’re using fuzzy logic.”

“Just open the imagine chamber door, Hal.”

“I’m sorry, Sham. I can’t do that,” Hal intoned ominously.


“It’s going blooie again…” Hal smacked his calculator and the door opened. “There we go. Wish we could thrash the originator of this Y2K bug.” Sham sighed, stacking some papers as Hal popped off.

Sometime later, Sham was prepared to put his plan into action. But Hal still didn’t have high hopes. “Sham, BigE has calculated a 90% probability that activating your device will only delay the 1999 reconstruction in the Red Room by 4 months. People will actually have LESS terminals to work on.”

Sham sighed. “Well, currently I have no alternative so let’s try the direct route. Here goes nothing.”

Sham switched on his abstract device. And Hal blinked. “Sham, in tracking your signal, BigE has picked up an analogous analog object!”

Sham blinked. “How do you account for that?”

“Someone else has an assembly!” Hal addressed Sham. “And… it looks like the other one is actually responsible for Y2K?!?”


“I’m trying to get a fix… but it’s looking like the Y2K Bug that hit us in 2000 was actually a virus initiated by someone named Millie Niem here in the 60s. That’s why even Y2K approved computers were affected!”

“I knew Quantum Loop was compliant,” Sham muttered.

“Sham, you can repair our problems in the future if you catch the person in the field nearby!” Hal finally declared.

“Would a net work?” Sham wondered, hurrying towards the location.

But as it turned out, a net was unnecessary. The person was Millie Niem herself, and she stopped willingly when Sham confronted her. However, she was not very forthcoming (or even thirdcoming).

“A virus to truncate dates to two digits in the Year 2000?” Millie retorted, laughing. “How fantastically fantastic! I’d like to see you validate such a claim.”

“You can prove it if you crack the encrypting of her device,” Hal assured Sham. “Unfortunately we don’t have a starting point.”

Sizing up the situation, Sham reached down and grabbed a bit of paper that had been left on the ground. “‘Use largest known truncatable prime’?” Sham read. “I think this will provide enough information to substantiate my statements.”

“That won’t help you,” Millie stated defiantly.

“On the contrary — I think everything can be determined now,” Sham retorted in satisfaction.

What has Sham figured out? Will all this really solve the problems with Y2K? And what about Sham’s mission to provide Mizuloo’s terminals? Find out when the story concludes in issue six…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[This issue also had more “Cynic’s Corner”, and the results of my survey on Saskatchewan. I’d needed some filler in the prior episode. I was kind of clever in my youth. Maybe I still am.]

Quantum Loop: Entry 2d

Hal walked into the Central Processing Room of Project Quantum Loop. “Any news?” he asked.

Sushi, the head programmer, stood up from behind the centre dais. “Dr. Geeks was looking for you earlier,” he replied. “That Katho guy in the fating room asked for some punched cards to toy with, and she doesn’t think he’s playing with a full deck.”

Hal nodded. “Well, I’m still trying to convince the nozzles who want to shut us down that we could fix Y2K better than their aliens.”

“As long as I don’t have to interface with all the infected computers,” the omnipresent BigE reminded. “It would cause hard wear.”

Hal nodded. “I’m currently working on just the right angle for my next presentation.”

“Then will things get back to normal?” Sushi mused.

“It may result in some basis of normality,” Hal shrugged. “So, anything else I should know before I see Sham?”

“The only people still reading this column are the ones looking for the occasional mathematical number theory,” BigE offered.

Hal blinked. “BigE, sometimes your statements don’t make a heap of sense,” he accused.

“This from someone in a lime green tinted suit. My processes have better threads than you, Admiral.”

Hal frowned, while Sushi patted a console, consolingly. “There, there. We’ll get to the root of this,” he assured.

Just then, Drawna WeeBTree entered the room. “Hal! How’s Sham?” she inquired.

“Haven’t checked on him yet, but I’m sure he’s doing fine,” Hal said with confidence.

Drawna nodded. “Xina was telling me that this looked like an easier loop.”

“Awk!” muttered Sushi, having gone back to his calculations. “Well, debugging this Y2K isn’t easy – I’m starting to think someone planned all this two-digit-bug business from the start.”

“I’m sure you’ll pull through when the chips are down,” Drawna comforted.

“Anyway, I’m off to the imagine chamber,” Hal declared. He grabbed his TI-85 and headed up the appropriate slope. Hal arrived holographically back in the 1960s shortly after, where he found Sham computing an inverse in verse. “Hey, Sham, how go the Harshad numbers?” Hal intoned.

Sham paused in his singing. “I decided that a number divisible by the sum of its own digits wouldn’t work for the mapping,” Sham responded. “But I think everything is finally in place now.”

Hal peered down at the schematics. “Sham, this floor labelling makes no sense,” he protested. “You’ve even labelled the potential elevators on each floor. 1101, 2079, 3093, 4115, 5220, 6312… where’s the pattern in that?”

“They all sum to numbers divisible by 3, except 4115.”

Hal tapped at the calculator in his hands. “Sham, no one figures this encoding out. There’s still the space problem in Mizuloo. Maybe you need to apply a mapping using the lucky numbers.”

Sham paused. “How do you define those again?” he inquired.

Can Sham still save the day? Are lucky numbers important? Do you feel lucky? Then keep reading when this series next continues…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[Happy New Year 2022! I still chuckle at ‘My processes have better threads than you, Admiral.’ Yes, we needed a scene set in the far future of 2000 to see the Drawna character. For those who don’t know, we now have the following Quantum Leap (Quantum Loop) name associations: SAM BECKETT (Sham Breakit); AL CALAVICCI (Al Calalilli); ZIGGY (BigE); TINA MARTINEZ (Xina); DR. “GOOSHIE” GUSHMAN (Sushi); DR. VERBENA BEEKS (Dr. Geeks); DR. DONNA ELEESE (Drawna WeeBTree). If you’re puzzled about Calalilli that’s a self-referential joke for hardcore Leap fans. Make sense?]

Quantum Loop: Entry 2c

Mr. Aba Cuss shook his head. “The fact that an abundant number is a number less than the sum of its factors (excluding itself) changes nothing. The first number of that form is 12 and I cannot present such a design to the architects. It’s too much.”

“I suppose such an abundant number of floors would be odd,” Sham admitted.

Aba stared. “An odd abundant number? There’s no way we could build a structure of 945 floors!”

“No, no! That is… well, can’t we add just one more floor?” Sham continued worriedly.

“Not a floor or a ceiling,” Ada responded. “Don’t you remember how our original design for the MC was that big castle structure…? Some people had real math news issues with that.”

Sham pondered for a moment, trying to determine what to do. “How about enlarging the floors we already have?” he proposed.

“Won’t do. Anyway, it’s all out of our hands now, our feat was merely working out the dimensions,” Aba reminded.

“And it’s too late to change them?” Sham verified. This loop was becoming infinitely more complex.

“Yes,” Aba declared firmly. “Though if you’re this concerned I can send along the schematics when they come in.”

Sham nodded. “Please do,” he requested.

A few days later, Sham found himself on a plane, observing cubism as he grappled with a tesseract. Indeed, he had managed to work out a diabolical plot on his graph paper. “You’re looking well co-ordinated,” Hal observed, stepping into the imagine chamber.

Sham jumped and fell, almost fracturing his spline. He spun to face the hologram. “Where have you BEEN?” he demanded. “And what are you WEARING?” he continued.

Hal’s pink tie was clashing with his plaid suit. “Aw, Sham, you don’t remember?” he chided. “I wore this tie last time you were in Mizuloo. Remember how my fifth wife graduated from here? …or maybe it was the fourth…”

“Nevermind,” Sham sighed.

“Anyway, sorry about the loss of contact. BigE is better but we’ve had our hands full in the year 2000 what with the aliens.” Sham stared. Hal continued. “See, they seem to be negotiating with the President about fixing the whole Y2K Bug using superior alien technology. But they’re asking for a lot of money. Thus the government is considering rerouting the funds currently going to Quantum Loop.”

“What on earth on you talking about?”

“No, they’re not from Earth, that’s the point. But anyway, what are you up to here?”

Sham decided to ignore Hal’s aliens for now. “I’m fixing the Math & Computing building’s problem,” he explained. “It seems like I ended up getting here too late to alter the three dimensional construction – so I’m adding a few extra dimensions to the sixth floor.”

Hal blinked. “How would anyone know to look in n-space to install extra computers??”

“There are mathematicians in the building, right? I figure I just have to introduce the proper labelling system for the doors and people will be able to work out a mapping from that. Access follows.”

Hal looked dubious. “Access at Mizuloo is not known for it’s reliability,” he stated. “What are you going to be basing this mapping on?”

“Probably something to do with Harshad numbers. What do you think?”

“I think I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Hal concluded.

What is Sham up to now? Is he as spaced out as the aliens in the future? Are you as lost as Hal? Then look for the continuation in two weeks time…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[A prior issue of mathNEWS had featured a castle structure as cover art. Access was the University’s unreliable software program for co-op. With the inside jokes out of the way, I’ll just mention that the previous Loop entry fit very nicely into one column. This entry, not so much. The joys of layout, when one is the editor.]

Quantum Loop: Entry 2b

“Ah, there we go!” Hal declared.

“4,294,967,297 worked, did it?” Sham verified.

“Yeah… pretty big for being only the fifth Fermat number,” Hal commented.

“Well you’d expect that for 2 raised to the power of powers of 2,” Sham argued. “I’m sure it wasn’t that easy for Euler to find that 641 divided into 2^32 + 1.”

“Whatever. Now that Sushi, the head programmer, has access… well, we should be able to get you some data,” Hal offered optimistically.

“So, what’s it like in the Year 2000 anyway?” Sham inquired.

“Pretty bad,” Hal observed, being the observer. “Almost all the computers have failed – even ones that were supposed to be Y2K compliant. Businesses are failing because no supervisors can do arithmetic without calculators. The stock market is crashing, the economy is plummeting and there’s looting and pillaging in the streets.”

“What?! How are people taking it?” Sham gasped.

“Some haven’t noticed the difference,” Hal said, shrugging. “But at least it’s not that bad yet in Stall-Eons Gate, New Mexico… Hey, maybe you looped in as Ray to convince everyone to use four digit dates?” he mused, amused. Suddenly the calculator in his hand let out a squeal, and he glanced down at it. Picking up the squeal, he then turned his attention to the display. “Oh here we are… Sham, it looks like you’re here to get supple.”

“Well, I thought I was in pretty good shape…”

Hal smacked the device he held. “Sorry, get supplementary space. There’s a Math & Computing building that’s going to be constructed shortly, but it won’t have enough room in it for computers by the end of the century.”

“Computers that won’t work anyway because of Y2K?”

“That’s not the point. You just need to talk to the people designing the building and tell them to add more floors,” Hal reasoned. “According to BigE, the MC building now has six floors. With relative ease you can make MC^2.”

“Actually, someone was asking me about floors just a little while ago,” Sham recalled.

“Could be Mr. Aba Cuss – apparently he’s supervising the design.”

“I’ll try to find him,” Sham decided.

“I’ll see if any of BigE’s drives need reFermating,” Hal resolved.

As Hal disappeared, Sham hurryied out of Ray’s office. Unfortunately, tracking down the MC design head from his current sector proved difficult. And after the seek time, Sham had to wait for a block of available discussion time. Then finally, when Sham presented his case to Mr. Cuss, he met with immediate opposition.

“I don’t understand,” Aba protested. “I thought you agreed earlier that we had an abundant number of floors.”

Sham paused. “Actually, if you go by the actual definition of an abundant number, a six floor building falls just short of the mark,” he countered.

What is Sham talking about? What is an abundant number? Does anyone really care? Find out next issue…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[My solo edit of mathNEWS continues. I’d forgotten about my Polkamon cover here. It would be my 8th, and was the only one I drew for Volume 81.]

Quantum Loop: Entry 2a

Theorizing that one could time travel within their own lifetime, Doctor Sham Breakit stepped into the Quantum Loop accelerator… and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mere images that were not his own, and driven by unknown source code to arrange history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Hal, an observer at run-time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sham can see and hear. And so Dr. Breakit finds himself looping through life after life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next loop… will be the loop $home.

Sham found himself sitting at a desk, facing an unknown person. Of course, everything was unknown to him at this point – he’d just looped into a new situation. He would now have a certain amount of time to fix whatever needed fixing, and when his quantum was up he would loop to his next assignment. At least his life was predictable that way.

“So, what’s your answer?”

Now if only he could predict an answer to that. “Oh boy?” Sham ventured.

The man across from him rolled his eyes. “It’s not that complex, be rational,” he pressed. “Do you think there’s a real need for another floor?”

“Uhmmm… no,” Sham decided. He hoped Hal would show up soon.

“Fine. Then we have the whole thing?”

“Naturally,” Sham continued, feigning nonchalance.

The man stood, picking up and closing a briefcase. He then grabbed an extendedcase and stated, “All right, I’ll send the schematics in. Thanks, Ray.” And after a quick handshake, Sham’s unknown visitor departed.

Sham looked around the office he was in. It seemed fairly spartan, and poking around through a couple of sheets didn’t enlighten Sham as to why he was here, nor did any pieces of paper. It seemed to be sometime back before 1970 but no year leapt out at him. So it was a relief when Sham heard the imagine chamber door open, signifying the presence of Hal Calalilli. At least, it was a relief until Hal walked out onto one of the walls.

“Hal, stop acting irrationally,” Sham sighed.

“I’m sorry, Sham. I can’t do that,” Hal intoned, punching at his TI-85 calculator with a vexed look on his face.

“Why? What’s going on?” Sham wondered, twisting his head to the side in an attempt at viewing an upright version of his friend.

“It’s this Y2K bug!” Hal declared. “BigE, your parallel hybrid computer is going nuts! You really should have made Project Quantum Loop Y2K compliant, Sham.”

Sham boggled. “I thought it was. Is it really the year 2000?”

“Whoops. Uh, yeah,” Hal admitted. “At least it is where we are, but there’s very limited data on where you are.”

“That’s normal,” Sham pointed out.

Hal made a face, as he was growing edgy. “You’re in Mizuloo,” he revealed. “At the University of Mizuloo to be precise.”

“Hm. Haven’t I been in Mizuloo before?” Sham wondered.

“Yes actually, but it won’t be for about 30 years,” Hal confirmed. “Right now it’s the 1960s and your name is Katho D. Toobe. But everyone just calls you “Ray”.”

“I see. Anything else?”

“Actually, yes. BigE has locked out all but the backup systems under a strange numerical password, and we were hoping you knew how to figure it out.”

“Strange? How so?”

“We have to enter the first composite Fermat number. But no one at the project recalls exactly what that is or even how to figure it out.”

“Oh, I can give you the answer,” Sham assured reassuringly.

What is the answer? Will Sham figure out what he has to do? Will the Project survive Y2K? Find out next time…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[This was Sept 24, 1999, leading up to Y2K. When we were worried all the computers would think ’00 meant 1900. Also in this issue were “Cynic’s Corner”, “Everything One Needs to Know in Life Can be Learned by Reading mathNEWS”, and the flippin’ mastHEAD itself because I was the sole editor (HoloEd) for the first time. I have no idea why I decided to run a serial on top of all that responsibility back then… maybe to fill space.

In somewhat related news, between my last post to the mathtans blog and this one, Dean Stockwell passed on. The main “Holo” of my HoloEd (Voyager’s doctor aside). That was a gut punch, but 85 years is a good run. This “Loop” retelling is for you, Dean. Rest in peace.]

General l’Hopital: Entry 1 Bonus

You may recall that Entry 1a featured an early sketch of what would end up becoming the cover of the issue. How did I still have that? Well, I kept a few of my old notes from that time, along with the mathNEWS issues themselves.

So I present to you here a little bonus, a scan of how some parts of the story were created.

I went in with no plan or plot. I sort of devised one, around the time the characters themselves were questioning whether there was a plot, in issue 4. Here was the plan for Issue 5:

You can see I went double spaced, so as to be able to add and change items as plot (or more likely puns) demanded. Using statistical terms like “the population” instead of “others”. I even had the final moral for Issue 6 worked out there on the second page.

As far as the issue 6 rough work, I’ll offer just the second page:

You’ll note a number of statistical terms at the top, gradually getting crossed off, along with the usual things like “I have a hunch” becoming “My expectation” to better fit with the theme.

In the end, I DID write a mathNEWS column entitled “How to Derive a Taylor Series”, in 2001, with some tips for how to come up with similar columns. I will probably include it as a post here on the blog, once we complete our serial parody run. Unless you think that would be a terrible idea. (If so, what should I do instead?)


By the way, anyone wondering about the status of “Time Untied” here? (The “Time & Tied” sequel.) I thank you for your patience.

After 150,000 words I’ve kind of unofficially split the sequel into another offering, “Time Denied”. Since the first outing got chopped into two (then four), I suppose that comes as no surprise. The break was done at a reasonable place, narratively. Yet there is still the chance that the earlier material might get affected by later words, because time travel, so I don’t feel I’m in a position to release it yet. Plus knowing what’s to come is letting me flesh out the subplots.

NaNo 2021

One subplot that seems to be going strong is the Carrie-Chartreuse-Peaches triangle. You’ll recall the first two characters were dating after “Time & Tied”, while I’ve mentioned the new Peaches character in passing. We’ve reached the point where I’ve tried putting the characters into ArtFlow, and then used them in making a cover for NaNoWriMo 2021 (yes, I’m tackling the story yet AGAIN this month).

Conversely, one subplot that’s working less well than I thought is the entire situation with Jenny Irving. It’s kind of entrenched though, so I’m not sure what more to do with it. Then there’s the race situation with Sherlock… maybe I’m trying to do too much here.

I hope it’s all working. I probably need more beta readers. If you’re interested, let me know.

Meanwhile, on this blog in numbers, September 2021 was through the roof for pageviews, at 562. With someone (or maybe multiple people) reading through “Time & Tied” and “Virga” along with some Epsilon. In October 2021 we were back to “normal” with 42 pageviews overall. Putting us on track for another typical year, maybe 1,500 views… where a third of them were in a single month. Wild. Thanks for checking me out, binge reader… are you even reading this?

I just have no time for publicity. The pandemic ensures Teaching and Parenting is all I have time for, with a bit of writing time clawed out. (This despite me shifting to part time… it’s insane.) I’ve already queued up the remaining posts for 2021, so no worries there… tell your friends, I guess? About the blog? If you like the writing? And as always, thanks for reading.

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[We now continue with the mathNEWS serials, already in progress.]