Tag Archives: Taxi-and-other-stories

Academic Degrees and Sex

“251 Mercer street” I said, “it is in the village,” “I know that” said the driver “are you going to NYU?” “Yes” I said. I was going to give a lecture at Ricky and Eli’s Tuesday evening’s Geometry Seminar and came earlier to have a chance to chat with the guys. “Let me tell you something” the driver said, “I did not finish elementary school, I left in the 6th grade and started working, and everyday I come home and have sex. My friends who finished elementary school have sex 2-3 times a week, tops. And , you know,” continued the driver “those who went on to finish high school, they have sex maybe once a week, no more.” “I see,” I said. Continue reading

Cosmonaut: Michal Linial

  

Ladies and gentelmen, I am very happy to present to you:

Being a Cosmonaut

A story by Michal Linial

I am back from the airport… not in the best mood for a long discussion but quite open to hear refreshing political statements. 50 minutes taxi ride that is all what it takes… This time, the communication took its own turns… I start with my regular question: “What is new this week”. This time, my Russian Taxi driver ignored my question and asked back: “How many planets are there?” I told him that to the best of my knowledge there are 9 planets that orbit around the sun. Really, he shouted: “my wife tells me there are 8 and she tells me she is a cosmonaut” and he continues, she knows nothing! I said that there might be some debate, so 8 is a good number and probably I got confused. My Taxi driver got really mad now: “You are not a cosmonaut and you know better”.
Two minutes later, he asks me again “how old is the earth”. This time I was a bit less decisive and told my taxi driver that I am not sure, but the accepted number is 4-5 billion years. To make sure this time there will be no conflicts with his marriage, I immediately added, the universe is much older, also, many people believe that the earth is much younger. My taxi driver now is very excited and answers me without hesitation: “You see, I can not even ask my wife this question, she says she is a cosmonaut, but I am sure that if I ask her, she will not know”… Continue reading

Tel-Aviv’s “Jerusalem Beach”

 

Friday’s evening at the beach

Late Friday afternoon, and the “Jerusalem beach” in Tel Aviv is still quite crowded with young and old people, families and singles, tourists, foreign workers and Israelis. The sea is calm and beautiful and the Tel Aviv shore landscape of people and buildings is restless and captivating. A young Philippine man with a baby on his shoulders ends a long cell phone conversation spoken in a strange language, with the familiar Hebrew ending “yalla bye“. A  father of a Russian speaking family takes pictures of his family with his cell phone, as does the father of an Arabic speaking family on our other side; in fact people all over the place are taking  pictures of each other with their cell phone cameras. What do they do with all these pictures? Where do they store them?

On our other side, another groups of foreign workes, six young women and two men. Two try to play beach paddle ball (matkot), a national Israeli beach game. They also take cell phone pictures, and then one plays the guitar and they all sing, “Jesus is our savior”, and “Jesus is our Shephard”, and even one song in Hebrew.

The sunset is breathtaking. A long waiting and then when the time comes the big orange sun disappears in a matter of seconds. Many people take sunset pictures with their cell phones.

On the way back we see three nuns with black outfits and one priest. They have serious expressions. They are Greek Orthodox, I think. The priest spins his hat in the air and tries to catch the hat with his head.     

  

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Updates

I have uploaded to the archive a paper on noisy quantum computation, which is a revision and an extension of my paper from 2006. A paper of Ehud Friedgut, Noam Nisan and myself about manipulations in voting rules was accepted to FOCS08. This is my 4th FOCS/STOC paper. (Larry Stockmeyer was a coauthor in one of my papers.)  I am planning to blog on issues around these two papers sometime in the future. (Meanwhile, there is an interesting post and discussion on quantum computers skepticism on Scott Aaronson’s blog.) Remember A. Nilli? We danced in her wedding on Sunday! Congratulations Nilli and John! As this post is launched I am at a high-dimensional phenomena conference in Sevillia. I have updated (or will soon update) the post about Han’s formula and provided more details. I also added a link to an interesting discussion on “Secret Blogging Seminar” related to my post “Is mathematics a Science”.

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Mathematics to the Rescue

 

It was my first day as a postdoc at MIT, and after landing at Logan Airport I took a taxi to a relative in Beverly, north of Boston, where I was going to stay for a few days while looking for a place to live for me and my family who were arriving a week later. The taxi driver had some difficulties locating the address and when we arrived the taximeter was on 34 dollars and fifty cents. “With the tip I will give you forty,” I told the driver and handed him a 100 dollar bill. “Sorry,” said the driver, “don’t you have smaller bills? I have only 40 dollars on me for change.” Hmm, I thought but could not find any small bills except for 10 notes of one dollar each. The problem seemed unsolvable. Can mathematics come to the rescue?

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Drachmas

“The fixed price to JFK is 28 dollars” said the taxi driver; “toll and tips not included, and I want the two dollars and seventy five cents for the toll upfront.” I reached to my wallet, dug eleven quarters and handed them to him. He carefully checked the quarters and said: “If you’re wondering why I want the toll money here, it is all because of the Drachmas.” “The Drachmas?” I asked. “Yes” said the driver. “They want to take me to trial for putting drachmas instead of quarters in the toll machine.” Apparently, using 100 Greek Drachma coins, which are almost of no value, instead of US quarters became quite a problem. “No matter how much I tell them that I put whatever the clients give me in the machine they still do not believe me, and want to bring me to trial. Therefore I now check the quarters the clients give me here in New York, in the light.” “I see” I said. I felt sorry for him. He was getting into serious trouble because of greedy, heartless passengers. 

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