For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

As the perhaps apocryphal story goes, the title of this piece is a six-word novel written by Ernest Hemingway as part of a bet while at lunch with a group of writers. The idea behind the six-word story, also commonly know as flash fiction, is, well, to tell a story in six words or less. A quick googling reveals thousands of such stories ranging from the rather dark:

Ernest Hemingway in 1939. Public domain photo, Wikimedia Commons.

Ernest Hemingway in 1939. Public domain photo, Wikimedia Commons.

“Goodbye, mission control. Thanks for trying.” ~aiken_~

to the lighter

“I leave. Dog panics. Furniture shopping.” ~Reed~

That said, there seem to be very few–I found two or three–flash fiction stories pertaining to math. With this in mind I want to propose a challenge:

Write your own six-word story/stories capturing the life, experiences, or work of mathematicians and graduate students, and post them in the comments below. The best ones will be highlighted in my post next month!

To give some sense of what I mean, and maybe to help get your creative thoughts rolling, here are two six-word stories I wrote about common experiences in the lives of math graduate students.

Working hard, checked arXiv. Start again.

From: Grad Admissions. “We are sorry…


About Juliettte Bruce

I am a fourth year graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. My interests lie on the algebraic side of things. In particular, I work somewhere in the intersection of algebraic geometry and commutative algebra.
This entry was posted in Announcement, General, Math, Math Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

  1. Avatar Joseph Kwiatkowski says:

    Let me try to be the first to submit the classic:

    Found proof! Nowhere to write it……

  2. Avatar jim12 says:

    Never heard of the concept, great stuff! So here are a few tries (although I’m no longer a grad student) :

    Beamer or chalk ? Does it matter ?

    In the news. Russian genius, Perelman…

    Low Erdős number : highly regarded item!

    …”Perverse sheaves”?… “Tits alternative”?…. “Sexy primes”?….

    Postdoc one: done. Postdoc two: done…

    Monstruous Moonshine. No sir, not poetry.

    Dear Professor, I am *not* single!

    Theorem: P equals NP. Proof: let…

  3. Avatar Abi says:

    But maybe this method will work.

  4. Avatar Abi says:

    Met supervisor. Sigh, let’s try again.

  5. Avatar Abi says:

    Not sure anymore if I’m doing this correctly, or just listing the things on my mind :/

    “Work”, teaching, conference, panic, repeat.

  6. Avatar Tai-Danae says:

    Life goal: just pass the prelims.

  7. Avatar Alexia says:

    It’s ok. I have a plan.

  8. Avatar Moisés says:

    You must do some huge multiplications!

  9. Avatar Moisés says:

    -Is this on the test?

  10. Avatar Eva says:

    My advisor surely thinks I’m dumb.

    These people know so many words.

    I’m relevant! My paper got cited!

    At conference: Wanna network me, please?

  11. Avatar Moisés says:

    The author thinks it’s obvious.

  12. Avatar jim12 says:

    I can’t resist a few more, that’s fun!

    Referee report just in!…Oh, well…

    – Daddy? And this one?
    – Hartshorne? No.

    …or something… She did say ‘folklore’.

    Bradley got a postdoc! In Smallcity…

    What do you mean, ‘by EGA7’?

    I dedicate this thesis to my…

    Maybe a generalization of this theorem?

    Oh dear! Terrible speaker, terrible topic.

    Title: Proof of conjecture X. (Nice!)

    Examinor: Can you clarify?
    Student: …mmm…

    Plurisubharmonic functions!? Now, what *are* these?

  13. Avatar Jonathan Baker says:

    Wait, are you sure that’s obvious?

  14. Avatar Joel says:

    Explore Ponder Inspiration Revelation Truth Beauty

  15. Avatar DJ Bruce says:

    These are all GREAT!! Keep them coming!!

  16. Avatar jim12 says:

    @DJ Bruce: okay then 🙂

    Trendy topic: overcrowded, riskier. Side project?

    …your paper. But if you read…

    Zhang, 58, proves bounded gaps. Inspirational!

    Agreed, tricky result. Standard, but tricky.

    My advisor, *his* thesis: how good?

    I created a theorem! Me! Speechless!

  17. Avatar jim12 says:

    No, Alexander, 57 is not prime.

    Note taking: reusable LaTeX. Smart stuff!

    Symplectic camel, cat map, spherical cow.

    -Welcome to our hotel, Professor…

    Reputation, grants, prizes. Is this academia?

    Second year: plan realistically, manage time.

    Summer school: made friends, fond memories!

  18. Avatar jim12 says:

    An invariant! I need an invariant!

    Obsessed with the Riemann Hypothesis: stupid.

    At your age, Tao was tenured…

    Don’t compare: work hard, it pays.

    Three years, three coauthors: not bad.

    Browse papers, learn tricks, grow knowledgeable.

    Marketable skills: problem solving, python programming.

    …conference location: Florence, Italy. So tempting!

  19. Avatar David Kotschessa says:

    Full story: left as exercise for the reader.

  20. Avatar Yash says:

    Enter forest. No hanging fruits? Climb

Comments are closed.