Principia mathematica

RANGE: From that first moment in math class when you get it—or dont get it—all the way to the day you proudly accept your Nobel Prize for explaining quarks—or stand shivering on a street comer, figuring on your fingers how many nickels for a cup of soup … the Calcubus is either with you or against you: a continuous function, either positive or negative.
In plane geometric terms, he is your Guardian Angle.
HABITS: The Calcubus hovers over restaurant tables, in the backs of cabs, and anywhere else people try to figure out what the tip should be. There are those who believe the Calcubus to be an imaginary, or “hypothetical,” number—since all statements about him begin with an “If. . .” or a “Suppose But there are those who know differently, who have felt the creature swoop out of the blue and either a) inspire their minds, or b) paralyze their brains.
Now, if the Calcubus (c) exists, then,
Let (a) be designated mathematicians, and
Let (b) be designated morons.
Q. E. D. !
In days of yore, some morons could fake their way through fractions, long division, even elementary algebra, by means of brute memory or by visual access to smart students’ answers. But, thanks to modern, advanced teaching methods, like the new math, the Arithmetically Hopeless are discovered much sooner these days and “streamed” into other, more fitting programs, like theology or shop. This separation of the sharpshooting sheep from the gormless goats is accomplished with the help of the aptly named Differential Calcubus. With the introduction of the simple pocket calculator, things looked grim for the Calcubus, as even the most mathematically inept mortal could perform fantastic feats of addition and such. But these resourceful demons conspired with their fellow fairies, the Glitches, and quickly removed from circulation any miniature computer on which anyone but an M.I.T. graduate could do more than locate the “on” switch.
HISTORY: That ancient Greek wizard Pythagoras originally conjured the Calcubus, but it was Euclid who first put the creature to work. He set the nasty thing down in the middle of a bridge—his Fifth Proposition, or “Pons Assinorum.” “Asses,” that is, all but a few of his students (or any students since), were unceremoniously booted off the “Pons,” or bridge, and never reached the other side and the neat and orderly land of the Giant Trig—which sounds like California, what with all the sins and tans out there. In America, those blessed at birth by the Calcubus tend to myopia, chess mastery, and the violin. Hence, few survive adolescence.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: The Calcubus is often detectable near a wisp of smoke: the smoke that smells like burnt rubber shooting from the ears of those cursed by the creature as they stare at their unbalanced bank books; the fatherly, tweed-and-leather scented smoke arising from the briar of a meditative M.I.T. quantum mechanic; the fine, bright, odorless trail of smoke still drifting over test sites across the Southwest; or the singe of the Calcubus’s own wings as it pays a visit to microchip specialists on the verge of a 256K breakthrough in Silicon Valley.


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