Math Disputes Are a Serious Matter

The L.A. Times reports that Cal State Northridge math professor Tihomir Petrov “has been charged with urinating on a colleague’s office door” as a result of a dispute with the colleague. And it wasn’t just a one-time thing: He was captured on concealed camera, hidden nearby by school officials after they “discover[ed] puddles of what they thought was urine at the professor’s door.”

On the other hand, maybe the colleague should be glad that all he got was a stinky office door; some mathematical disputes end worse. It is said that one Hippasos, who revealed the irrationality of the square root of 2 — something the Pythagoreans viewed as a secret — perished in a shipwreck for his troubles. Of course, I realize that perhaps the Northridge dispute was not about matters mathematical, but I would like to think that it was. Thanks to Paul Milligan for the pointer.

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