Moonlighting agony uncle Professor Dirichlet answers your personal problems. Want the prof’s help? Send your problems to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m excited to try my hand at home automation. For compatibility with my iPhone, I thought I’d get one of Apple’s Alexa-type things. But now every time I try to turn my smart bulbs on with my voice, my phone starts talking back at me, then the Alexa starts talking, which sets my phone off, which sets the smart speaker off… I can’t get them to shut up! You seem like a modern man: how can I end this caco-phone-y?
— Megan Squirrel, London
I fear these signs indicate you are being tested by a bad case of alternating Siris. Can you change their voices to something more robotic? So long as each of them is monotonic, and their volumes are decreasing slightly every time, eventually they will have to stop. Listen out for a punchy duet of Lumberjack by Johnny Cash: you’ll know this is the end because alternating harmonic Siris form a natural logger rhythm of two.
For years I have been celebrated for my geometric prowess. My famous aperiodic tiling pattern has graced buildings; tens of thousands of feet have walked on paving laid out to my design. But things have changed. Now, I’m number two. Beaten by a hat. I just don’t know who I am anymore. People used to ask me to speak at conferences, but now all I do is run algebra tutorials.
— My job, it’s just teach, Oxfordshir
Dear Roger — You are Penough.
I run a breakfast chain with restaurants all over Europe. In France, our croissants for petit déjeuner sell out every morning. In Spain, our churros for desayuno are all gone by 8am, and in Germany our Frühstück of Brötchen and Speck runs out regularly. But in Italy, we have una problema. Every time our servers check the plates of pastries, the number left has halved. But every now and then, suddenly the number seems to triple! Who’s the phantom brioche bringer?
— Maria Novella, Florence
Salute, Maria. I agree, the tripling is very odd behaviour. Even halving is alarming. But are you sure it isn’t tripling plus one? I don’t think we can say for sure but this shouldn’t go on forever — unless you are able to disprove the colazione conjecture.
Do you know a lawyer? My friend was picked up by the rozzers in the park this morning for selling illegal substances! OK – so he has a side hustle in selling two types of medicinal herbs – but he’s being charged because the purity of these batches is variable! How can I convince the magistrate that he doesn’t pose a threat?
— Andrew Walks, in the Ocean
Yet another soldier lost to joint distribution. If most of the batches were normal, you can testify in court that he can easily and safely integrate back into society.
I’ve invited my favourite professor to dinner on 14 March. Given his interest in geometry, I’m hoping to impress with a three-and-a-bit-course meal combining a round of savoury delights with circular sweet treats. Any tips on what to cook to make this event a success?
— Pichael Perry, Trieste
I’ll be there at six.
Heed Professor Dirichlet’s previous advice:
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