The Shoelace Problem

  • David Gale


Has this ever happened to you? You ve just finished patiently trying to explain some beautiful result of pure mathematics to a group of nonmathematicians, hoping that you ve conveyed something of the flavor of this pearl of truth and beauty, and then after a pause someone says, “Yes, but what has any of this got to do with everyday life?” After much thought I’ve decided that the correct response is to say “Nothing. That’s what’s so nice about it. After all, everyday life is often a drag, so we do mathematics for the same reason we listen to music or ski down a mountain: to get away from and above and beyond everyday life.”


Vertical Segment Straight Segment Lattice Interval Lattice Polygon Beautiful Result 
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  1. 1.
    The Shoelace Problem, Department of Computer Science Technical Report No. 92-032 (1992), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Gale
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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