Monday, August 13, 2007

The Gauss gambit

Mr Darcy gloomily surveyed his grounds. Pemberley basked under the sultry heat of a long August afternoon. Imprisoned at his desk, flies buzzing at the window, he longed to be outside: riding, hunting, walking in his little wilderness ... anything but this wretched office work, work which required a studiousness to which he was neither accustomed nor well suited.

Elizabeth had specifically requested the hedging be of a wavy design. She said that it would remind their mutual friend, Admiral ---, of the sea. All that remained was to give the gardener precise instructions on the length of hedging required. The gap to be filled was one hundred yards wide, and the sinuous shape would surely only ever be properly visible from the guest room on the second floor. But, as Elizabeth never failed to point out, this was precisely the room which the Admiral would be occupying.

Darcy returned to his calculations. All his time at Oxford had barely equipped him for this task. He had finally reached the point he had feared. Unaided, no further advance would now be possible.

“Elizabeth, my dear” he called.

“Yes, Mr. Darcy?”

How he hated it when she called him that, burned by the naked flame of her insolent superiority. How many times had he pleaded with her “Please call me Fitzwilliam?” But in these moods she never would.

“Elizabeth, please, what’s the line integral of sin(θ) from zero to 2π”?

“It’s not a line integral. It's called the arc length, and it's 7.64, silly.” she replied with practised condescension. "Just one wave will do, dear. I think you'll find it's about 122 yards."

For the thousandth time, Darcy swore to himself. If he had only known that Miss Elizabeth Bennet had been for many years the secret mistress of famed German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, he would never have married her.


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