# Ron responded, "There are 168 hours in a week."

July 8, 2020 4:14 AM Subscribe

Mathematician Ronald L. Graham died July 6th. Ron Graham was among the most prolific living mathematicians, a leader in discrete mathematics and one of the creators of the field of modern theoretical computer science. He was a close collaborator with many mathematicians, notably his wife Fan Chung and the illustrious Paul Erdős (whose practical affairs he and Fan also managed for many years). He served as director of information sciences at Bell Labs for decades, and had been president of both the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America.

His enthusiasms were broad-ranging, and he complemented his studies in mathematics with both practical and theoretical discursions into juggling and magic; with colleagues including Martin Gardner, Persi Diaconis, and Colm Mulcahy he was instrumental in building a closer connection between mathematics and prestidigitation.

Popularly, he is best known for writing a proof establishing a certain number to exist, but with an upper bound so ludicrously large that extant notation was incapable of expressing it and new notation had to be created simmply to specify its value. This upper bound is known as Graham's number.

His enthusiasms were broad-ranging, and he complemented his studies in mathematics with both practical and theoretical discursions into juggling and magic; with colleagues including Martin Gardner, Persi Diaconis, and Colm Mulcahy he was instrumental in building a closer connection between mathematics and prestidigitation.

Popularly, he is best known for writing a proof establishing a certain number to exist, but with an upper bound so ludicrously large that extant notation was incapable of expressing it and new notation had to be created simmply to specify its value. This upper bound is known as Graham's number.

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After reading The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, managing anything to do with Erdős sounded like an extreme trial.

posted by scruss at 4:50 AM on July 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

^{.}After reading The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, managing anything to do with Erdős sounded like an extreme trial.

posted by scruss at 4:50 AM on July 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

Attended a talk once, a really clear and fun speaker. His arrow operator was clear and understandable and totally mind blowing. (Sort of did for exponentiation what multiplication does to addition , but bigger, much much bigger, like he left the size of the universe behind in the first few minutes)

posted by sammyo at 4:56 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by sammyo at 4:56 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

.

(Not a dot in this case, but a decimal point.)

posted by Gelatin at 5:44 AM on July 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

(Not a dot in this case, but a decimal point.)

posted by Gelatin at 5:44 AM on July 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

Sad news. I appreciated meeting Ron Graham when he gave a talk at my university and instead of talking about math, the grad students all wanted Ron to juggle. The conference room turned into a little juggling festival for the rest of the afternoon.

[About counting to Graham’s number, previously posted here.]

posted by klausman at 5:56 AM on July 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

[About counting to Graham’s number, previously posted here.]

posted by klausman at 5:56 AM on July 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

Numberphile has an accessible intro to Graham’s Number that manages to convey how bonkers huge it is.

posted by mhoye at 7:22 AM on July 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

posted by mhoye at 7:22 AM on July 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

Numberphile did another video about Graham's number: What is Graham's Number? (feat Ron Graham).

posted by Pendragon at 7:45 AM on July 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by Pendragon at 7:45 AM on July 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

"Has he died

He has left"

Ok, math nerds, what am I missing here? :)

posted by storybored at 7:47 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

He has left"

Ok, math nerds, what am I missing here? :)

posted by storybored at 7:47 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

*Ok, math nerds, what am I missing here? :)*

Erdős had a kind of an idiosyncratic private vocabulary, and the relevant items here are that, when someone died, he would say that they had "left"; and, if someone stopped doing mathematics, he would say that they had "died".

posted by thelonius at 7:50 AM on July 8, 2020 [22 favorites]

lol, thelonius!

posted by storybored at 8:19 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by storybored at 8:19 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Erdős, the Tom Haverford of mathematicians.

posted by SaltySalticid at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by SaltySalticid at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

.

posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2020

posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2020

↑

posted by symbioid at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by symbioid at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

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I remember watching the Numberphile videos about Graham's Number a long time ago. His explanation of it, using red and blue lines, was so much clearer and easier to follow than the first one involving people on committees.

posted by FishBike at 11:47 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I remember watching the Numberphile videos about Graham's Number a long time ago. His explanation of it, using red and blue lines, was so much clearer and easier to follow than the first one involving people on committees.

posted by FishBike at 11:47 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

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I got to juggle with him prior to him giving a talk at my undergraduate college. I was happy, but I suspect my fellow juggler/student mbrubeck is still on cloud nine from the experience.

posted by pmb at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2020

I got to juggle with him prior to him giving a talk at my undergraduate college. I was happy, but I suspect my fellow juggler/student mbrubeck is still on cloud nine from the experience.

posted by pmb at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2020

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posted by Lesser Spotted Potoroo at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2020

posted by Lesser Spotted Potoroo at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2020

The up-arrow notation was invented by Donald Knuth, but was popularized by Martin Gardner writing about Graham’s Number in Scientific American. (Surprisingly, Graham’s Number is actually far larger than his original upper bound for the problem that inspired it, but was easier to explain for a popular article.)

Along with his juggling prowess, Gardner mentions that “in his early youth Graham and two friends were professional trampoline performers who worked for a circus under the name of the Bouncing Baers.”

posted by mubba at 4:43 PM on July 8, 2020

Along with his juggling prowess, Gardner mentions that “in his early youth Graham and two friends were professional trampoline performers who worked for a circus under the name of the Bouncing Baers.”

posted by mubba at 4:43 PM on July 8, 2020

.

posted by equalpants at 5:57 PM on July 8, 2020

posted by equalpants at 5:57 PM on July 8, 2020

American Mathematical Society

Splitters!

posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2020

**and**the Mathematical Association of America?Splitters!

posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2020

In college, as an amateur juggler and a math major, I was very excited when Ron Graham visited my school to give his talk on the mathematics of juggling. At the reception after the talk, he did some juggling with those of us who knew how. I particularly remembering him teaching me some two-person tricks where we stood side-by-side and did four-handed siteswap patterns.

posted by mbrubeck at 7:58 PM on July 8, 2020

posted by mbrubeck at 7:58 PM on July 8, 2020

.

posted by crocomancer at 1:23 AM on July 9, 2020

posted by crocomancer at 1:23 AM on July 9, 2020

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