July 17 – Yellow Pig Day

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I’ll always be the first in the room to voice my opinion on mathematics and have more then a few unsavoury things to say on the matter. However I can still appreciate Yellow Pig Day…I think. This odd mathematical holiday, which is more of an in-joke of the math geeks of the world than anything, is based around a mythical, magical yellow pig which has 17 eyelashes. The significance? Co creator of this pig Michael Spivak simply says “If you have to ask, you just won’t understand.”

The origins of the yellow pig come from Spivak’s history as a student of Princeton in the 1960s. Spivak and David C Kelly were paired for an assignment that involved listing the properties of the number 17 and in the process came up with the yellow pig (If you’re curious, here is a link of the many, many properties of the number 17: http://www.vinc17.org/d17_eng.pdf ). Michael has since had an extensive mathematics career and has written text books where he subtly weaves in yellow pig references throughout. For example one of the first pages of a textbook includes a dedication: “Dedicated to the Memory of Y.P.” and another book involves a question featuring a chinese policeman (if you didn’t understand that last one, think slang terms). David Kelly hosts mathematics summer schools for those crazy students who want to continue the torture of math in their spare time and introduces participants to the “Cult of the Yellow Pig”.

I love nerds. They are actually the best – Happy Yellow Pig Day!

~ Darcie Rae

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Info-links:
Things in books: http://www.cockeyed.com/inside/meilcarek/working_spivak.html
http://sciencelens.co.nz/2012/07/17/yellow-pig-day/
http://voices.yahoo.com/top-5-facts-yellow-pig-day-11531252.html?cat=4

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