Explaining mathematical concepts using Indian celebrities


What does this picture of Bipasha Basu have to do with mathematics? That will become clearer to you in the course of this article. Our primary objective was to grab your attention.

Perhaps it is not widely recognized that 2012 was declared “National Mathematical Year” by none other than scholar-statesman and economist (which does not necessarily mean he was a failed mathematician) Dr. Manmohan Singh as means to pay tribute to that great mathematical genius, S Ramanujam. The PM had also exhorted the mathematical community to find ways and means of addressing the shortage of top quality mathematicians in the country.

Responding to his clarion call, the Vadapalani Institute of Advanced Abstract Mathematics, which is involved in cutting edge, foundational work in the discipline has come up with a list of recommendations to popularize the Queen of Sciences among the student community, both at the high school and graduate level. This entails the overhaul of the pedagogy by replacing the extant nomenclature in theorems, terms, and equations with names of public figures so as to breathe life into these expressions, rendering them more ‘relatable’.

1. Replacing the constant ‘c’ with MMS in convoluted mathematical equations:
The character ‘c’ to represent a constant in mathematical expressions somehow occupies a lowly place in the scheme of things, eclipsed and relegated to the sidelines by the more glamorous, convoluted interactions involving the variables and other terms.

For instance, consider this equation:

This could be interpreted as a solution to the outcome of the Parliamentary vote on FDI in retail, with ‘x’ being the number of votes, ‘a’ being Sonia Gandhi, ‘b’ being Rahul Gandhi etc.

But always the constant ‘c’ stands aloof in majestic isolation, reticent, unchanging, bland, and with no direct role to play in the messy process to determine policy outcomes, just like Dr. Manmohan Singh’s role in Indian politics.

So it is only fitting that going forward, ‘c’ be replaced by MMS as a tribute to India’s scholar-premier.

2. Explain Limits by citing the example of Rahul Gandhi tending to Prime Ministership as time tends to infinity:
Understanding limits is the first step towards mastering differentiation in elementary calculus. Students can be better initiated into the concepts by citing the career trajectory of the Nehru-Gandhi scion, Shri Rahul Gandhi.

No one knows whether Rahul will become a Prime Minister a week from now, a year from now or even a decade from now, but there’s unanimity that eventually he WILL become the Prime Minister.

3. Replacing “i” (square root of -1) with Digvijay:
High school students are initially taught that square roots of negative numbers cannot be defined. However, later they are told that square of i is -1 and then immersed into the world of complex numbers before they can recover from the shock.

Perhaps impressionable, young minds can be better initiated into the realm of complex numbers by comparing i with veteran Congress leader, Diggy. As any keen student of politics will tell you, there is normal political discourse and then there is the discourse emanating from the mouth of Diggy. One can completely shut him out and confine oneself to only ‘real’ analysis. But treat Diggy’s verbiage as a coefficient of i, and one is transported to the magical world of complex numbers. Students will never complain about the need to study complex numbers after this.

Additionally, undefined functions which don’t make any sense whatsoever such as log (-X^2), tan (90) etc can be clubbed as Digvijay functions.

4. Why logarithms?
To make it easier to deal with humongous numbers. Logarithms have myriad applications, including reducing larger numbers to a more manageable scale.

The world of cricket has greatly benefited from this wonderful mathematical innovation in being able to deal with the age of the flamboyant Pakistani all-rounder, Shahid Afridi.

After all, Log (Shahid Afridi’s age) is approximately 18 years, and 3 months. His actual age is left as en elementary exercise in using log books for the discerning student.

5. Bipasha Basu Curves:

A curve in space can be represented by a vector function: r(t) = [x(t), y(t), z(t)]

However, before dwelling into properties of curves such as tangents, lengths, curvature, and torsion, students should spend time modelling some of the wonderful curves in real life, especially those of Bengali bombshell, Bipasha Basu.

As a first step, we ask those interested to plot r(t) = [a cos t, a sin t, c t]  in 3 dimensional space and see how closely it approximates Bipasha Basu’s figure.

A better approximation would be the equation of a parabola that begins to resemble the contours of the diva:

To help students make the shift from parabolas to hyperbolas, teachers would do well to direct their students to imagine Bipasha in a bikini instead of Bipasha in a chiffon saree.

6. Explaining random variables by drawing attention to the shenanigans of Mulayam, Didi:
Journalists are more familiar with random variables given that they track the politics of Mamata, Didi and Mayawati. Therefore, before students take up any introductory semester course in probability theory, they would be well advised to spend a week reading about Mamata or Mulayam to internalize the concept of random variables.

7. Asymptotes:
Asymptotes are to curves what Sachin’s retirement is to his career. So why not introduce the concept with this graph:

8. Basis in Linear Algebra:
In linear algebra, a basis is a set of linearly independent vectors that  in a linear combination can represent any vector in a vector space. This is analogous to Ravi Shastri’s commentary which is a linear combination of a given set of clichés. So in the jargon of vector space theory, the set of clichés [Just what the doctor ordered, Flash and flash hard,…, raced like a tracer bullet] constitutes a basis that spans the entire space of Ravi’s commentary.

f(Ravi shastri’s speech) = ax + by + cz
where x, y and z are subsets of the universal set of Ravi Shastri’s cliches.

(With geeky input from the Unreal Team)

Insane Insaan

About Insane Insaan

Never angry, never sad, perhaps mad. Insane by mind, Insaan at heart.

  • Pritam

    WHOA!!! Good one dude. Quite technical…:)

  • Navn

    This is too technical for me….as maths, m not reading this

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Thanks a lot!!!, pritam da!!
    UnReal team deserves most of the credit as well!!!!!

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear navn,
    hope this will article will help u to understand maths(a way of life,actually) a lot better!!all the best!!:)

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear Unreal times readers,
    your comment on this article(approval/disapproval) here will motivate me a lot.pls try to leave a comment!:)

  • http://diggychacha.blogspot.com Diggy Chacha

    Too good The Ultimate CSK fan :)

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Thanks, a lot dear, diggy chacha!!
    Must say, i provided a spark,which the editors fanned into a forestfire….

  • WP

    Unfortunately dimensions of log(Shahid’s age) and his stated age don’t match. Perhaps (Actual age)*(negative exponential of the no of times he goes into retirement) is a better model?

  • Andy


  • vijay

    Wonderful article..one of the best i have read

  • Lokesh Bahety

    Geeky and cheeky at the same time. Good to see ‘Dhoni’ performing at least somewhere :D

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear WP,
    Thanks 4 sharing ur views!:)

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear lokesh,
    thank u!!!
    Here, ive one 4 you,

    ”inspired by your charming wit,
    a fire in me has been lit,
    if u find this poem lame,
    forget it!,all the same”

    keep inspiring me!!

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear unreal mama,
    around 11:30 pm,monday.
    The unreal times website was behaving rather funny!
    Some links were throwing up something else!some comments i made got deleted as well!!

    Perhaps a technical glitch, pls take notice!

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear andy,
    thanks a lot!
    The ‘wonder’ in wonderful are the editors!:)

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear vijay,
    thank u!!
    Keep coming back for more!!!:)

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    11:36 PM MONDAY!!

  • The Ultimate CSK fan

    Dear unreal mama,
    now the pieces are falling in their places…..
    A maintenence was going on at your end, wasnt it?
    Deduced it, as ive seen login feature getting activated..
    Sorry 4 giving an alarm!!!!

  • Naveen

    Good one. From now, I will be reminded of MMS whenever I see “c” in an integral equation :)

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Thanks dear naveen,
    credit to the editors for MMS part.
    However when u see non integrable functions, u may be well reminded of ravindra jadeja,ie. Whose pieces cannot be put together..:)

  • Raman

    Excellent!! I liked the “…No one knows whether Rahul will become a Prime Minister a week from now, a year from now or even a decade from now, but there’s unanimity that eventually he WILL become the Prime Minister…” the best. Others were good too, but this one was special.

    I would also suggest the following analogy for the famous Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle, renamed hereafter as the “Ashwin Effect” i.e. it is impossible to predict with accuracy, the number of wickets taken and the runs scored by R. Ashwin. In any given test match, the more precise are his batting skills, the less precise will be his bowling accuracy.
    As a corollary, the more runs he scores, the less wickets he shall take.

    • Unreal Mama

      haha good one. Will try and develop

  • The Ultimate CSK fan

    Haha ,Nice one , dear raman.
    Your idea will surely be developed,by unreal mama.
    Your analogy perfectly describes ravi ashwins story!!!!
    Infact, i had mentioned the heisenberg principle in one of my articles (pending) sent to UT!

  • The Ultimate CSK fan

    Surprised that people dint notice something!
    The heading says ‘indian celibrities’
    and the world knows shahid afridi is a pakistani!

  • Pankaj

    Concepts more beautifully explained that I ever saw in a mathematics classroom or textbook.

    I think you should open a teaching academy. You folks explain difficult terms so wonderfully. You of course become Economics professors and appoint “The Ultimate CSK fan” as Mathematics professor. This article should be recommended as a study material for people who have difficulty grasping the abstractness of mathematics.

  • Theultimatechennaisuperkingsfan

    Dear pankaj,
    we all revere unreal mama,dont we? Unreal mama, pls accept us as ur devotees.