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Impossible? by Julian Havil

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Chapter 1

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IT’S COMMON KNOWLEDGE

Mathematics is the science which uses easy words for hard ideas.

Edward Kasner and James Newman

Part of Stevie Nicks’s 2003 lyrics of the Fleetwood Mac song ‘Everybody Finds Out’ might describe the reader’s reaction to the subject matter of this first chapter:

I know you don’t agree . . .Well, I know you don’t agree.

The song’s title also finds its way into the title of an episode of the NBC sitcom television series Friends, ‘The One Where Everybody Finds Out’, which was first aired in February 1999 and which contains the following dialogue:

Rachel: Phoebe just found out about Monica and Chandler.

Joey: You mean ...

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