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1729 is known as the Hardy-Ramanujan number after a famous anecdote of the British mathematician G. H. Hardy regarding a hospital visit to the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. It has been used several times on Futurama.
In Hardy's words:
I remember once going to see him when he was ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen. "No," he replied, "it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."
The quotation is sometimes expressed using the term "positive cubes", as the admission of negative perfect cubes (the cube of a negative integer) gives the smallest solution as 91 (which is a factor of 1729):
- 91 = 63 + (− 5)3 = 43 + 33
Of course, equating "smallest" with "most negative", as opposed to "closest to zero" gives rise to solutions like −91, −189, −1729, and further negative numbers. This ambiguity is eliminated by the term "positive cubes".
Numbers such as
- 1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103
that are the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in n distinct ways have been dubbed taxicab numbers. 1729 is the second taxicab number (the first is 2 = 13 + 13). The number was also found in one of Ramanujan's notebooks dated years before the incident.
Investigating pairs of distinct integer-valued quadratic forms that represent every integer the same number of times, Schiemann found that such quadratic forms must be in four or more variables, and the least possible Discriminant of a four-variable pair is 1729.
1729 has another interesting property: the 1729th decimal place is the beginning of the first occurrence of all ten digits consecutively in the decimal representation of the transcendental number e. Although, of course, this fact would have been unknown to either mathematician, since the computer algorithms used to discover this were not implemented until much later.
Masahiko Fujiwara showed that 1729 is one of four natural numbers (the others are 81 and 1458 and the trivial case 1) which, when its digits are added together, produces a sum which, when multiplied by its reversed self, yields the original number:
- 1 + 7 + 2 + 9 = 19
- 19 · 91 = 1729
- "Love's Labours Lost in Space" (1ACV04) Nimbus' hull registry number is BP-1729.
- "Xmas Story" (2ACV04) Bender received a card identifying him as "Son #1729". Ken Keeler, who has a PhD in applied mathematics, says in the commentaries to the episode that "that 'joke' alone is worth six years of grad school".
- "The Lesser of Two Evils" (2ACV06) Flexo's is 1193 + 1193 = 3370318. This datum is one of the pieces of evidence used to establish that Flexo and Bender are a pair of good-and-evil twins.
- "The Farnsworth Parabox" (4ACV15) parallel universe where everyone has bobble-heads is called Universe 1729.
- Bender's Big Score Fry entered in 2012 is 87539319, which is the sum of two positive cubes in 3 ways. This is a reference to the incident with Hardy and Ramanujan.