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17 (Seventeen) and Yellow Pigs

My 17's and Yellow Pigs

Let's start with my collection of 17's; this is an old page (last updated on March 7, 1998), that will be rewritten when I have the time. This page does not contain the mathematical properties of 17. If you want the whole list on the 17's, get the LaTeX version:

If you have other interesting 17's, you can mail them to me.

Note: This site took part in Webs d'Or 96 under the number 1207 = 17 × 71.

My page on yellow pigs.

Historical Facts

You certainly want to know where the 17's and the yellow pigs come from. Let Daniel Loeb talk… [Written in the 1990's. Since then, I've added some links.]

Ah, there are two mathematicians. David C. Kelly and Mike Spivak. They were graduate students together at Princeton (?) in the 1960's. They reportedly got the yellow pig 17 idea at a bar.

Since then, Mike Spivak has become a famous author of math text books and has hidden a yellow pig in each book (e.g. one book is dedicated to a chinese (yellow) policeman (pig)) and another has a reference to Steve Neen (?) in the index referring to a page in which he goes whole hog and lets n tend towards infinity or something like that.

David Kelly got involved in summer math programs. Here is some history of that from Larry Carter….

The answer is, it's probably impossible. In any case, Kelly set up Hampshire by a process of successive improvements. Let me try to recount the History of HCSSiM, although my knowledge of it is incomplete and inaccurate.

Sometime around 1957, possibly in response to the Russian's launching of Sputnik, a summer program was set up at St. Paul's School, a prep school in New Hampshire. High school students from all over N.H. came to study their favorite subject. They were also subjected to English classes, daily chapel, mandatory sports, and lights out at 10:30. I suspect that the fact that the program was at a high school, was staffed by high school teachers, and targeted to a state, all made it simpler to start. (Dan: if you want to find out how that program got set up - it still exists - you can write to the Advanced Studies Program, St. Paul's School, Concord, N.H. 03301. Alan Hall was the original director.)

So we've got state funding, decent (but not Hampshire-caliber) students and faculty, and a pretty campus. Sometime in the early 60's, Kelly found a summer job teaching math there. He set about revising the curriculum, away from freshman math and towards Neat Stuff. Also, whenever he found someone who seemed to love math, he encouraged them to teach there (I joined in '67). I think the NSF funding started coming in under Kelly's reign (the NSF was bursting with money in those days.)

So now we have a dedicated staff (Dan Heisey and Dave Gay, among others.) I think what happened next is that the NSF declared that they would no longer fund programs that were restricted to a single state, or maybe just St. Paul's Rules and Regulations got to be too much. In any case, Kelly and Dan Heisey applied to the NSF and got funding to set up a program at UNH, where Dan was a professor. Kelly's staff of course followed and were joined by Mike Spivak and the Yellow Pig. Students applied since the NSF advertised it along with all the other so-called Summer Studies Training Programs.

This lasted two years (68 and 69), at which point UNH decided they didn't need Kelly, that they could have a more organized program without him, or something like that. They tried in '70, and were wrong. So even though Hampshire College didn't exist at the time, Kelly's proposal to set up a program at Hampshire in '71 was approved by the NSF. From then on, it was mostly easy, since students became staff and word of mouth brings more students. The only hard part was trying to survive during the years the NSF couldn't support the program. But alumni contributions and Hampshire's reduced charges for the facilities (plus a high tuition) allowed the program to muddle through.

Kelly gives a talk at each program about seventeen. The program visits his home (in groups) a couple of times. He has a collection of mathematical toys larger than any particular game shop I have seen. In addition he has somewhere between 289 and 4913 yellow pigs lying around his house.

People have tried coming up with rival numbers (e.g. 23); however, Kelly beat them in a competition. The rivals had to name a property of 23, and Kelly (and Don Goldberg) would reply with at least 2 similar properties of 17…. In the end, the rivals ran out of interesting properties!