Author’s Note: I’ve read quite a few books where, at the end, the author lists the music they listened to when they wrote the book, to help figure out what mindset is right for the book. Well, thanks to this new laptop, I can do better. I’ve got my DVD-ROM set up so I can watch a movie in bottom left corner of my screen while I type this. So, to help put you in the right mindset for reading this column, I think I should tell you that I’m watching Shrek as I write this.
My favourite Christmas story has to be the tale of Archimedes. You see, Archimedes was one of the great original Greek mathematicians. One day, the king of Greece called Archimedes to his court and had a very special task in store. The king wanted to know exactly how much gold was in his crown. Now, back in these times, the way to determine the volume of gold in a funny-shaped object was easy: melt it down into a shape that you can easily determine the volume of, like a sphere or a cube. Naturally, the king balked off at this. “You’re not messing with my crown, Archimedes,” I believe was the king’s exact quote. So, Archimedes had a real brain-teaser of a math problem on his hands. He locked himself in his workshop, hunched over his work table and began working on the problem. Several days went by, and Archimedes was making no headway at all. Finally, his wife came into the workshop. “Dear, you’ve been working yourself sick on this,” she said. “Why don’t you relax? I got a nice warm bath all ready for you.” Archimedes thought this was a good idea, and headed off to the tub. As he climbed into the tub and got comfy, he noticed something odd. When he got in, the water level rose. He thought about this for a while, and eventually saw the relationship: the water level rose by the exact same amount as his volume. He discovered displacement. He discovered a way to measure the volume of the king’s crown. He was so excited, that he jumped out of the tub and ran down to the palace, screaming, “Eureka!” the whole way.