Both Sides Now


Effective immediately, the following statement will appear on the front cover of all math textbooks in Tuskamoga County, Mississippi, per unanimous vote of the school board.

The Pythagorean Theorem is a theorem, not fact. A theorem is defined as “A proposition that has been or is to be proved on the basis of explicit assumptions” (emphasis added). In other words, it’s just a suggestion. If it were fact, it would say so in the definition. That’s just common sense.

The Pythagorean Theorem states that for any right triangle, the square of its hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of its remaining two sides. This is one of many possible theorems that explain triangular geometry. We encourage you to keep an open mind and carefully consider alternative theorems. Not that we are naming any names.

Okay, we’ll name one, just for comparison, not that we are necessarily espousing this particular view. But it turns out that some highly respected, forward-thinking, and exceptionally handsome mathematicians espouse an alternative known as the IWC Theorem. The IWC Theorem states that for any right triangle, the square of its hypotenuse is equal to whatever sum is pleasing to Cluckie, the Invisible Wonder-Chicken.

Since you’re probably curious, Cluckie is an amazing, all-powerful, hyper-intelligent chicken that has existed throughout the universe since the beginning of time. Cluckie is everywhere and anywhere at once, yet nobody can detect or measure her in any way. That’s exactly how Cluckie likes it. And according to IWC Theorem, it turns out that Cluckie usually (emphasis added) likes her right triangles to have hypotenuses which, when squared, equal the sum of the squares of the remaining two sides. But not always!

We realize this may be a sophisticated concept for some of your simpler-minded classmates to grasp. If you speak to such dullards, simply ask: which is more likely, that every right triangle in the universe happens to conform to some arbitrary geometric ratio, or that each triangle has a shape that is perfect for itself, as determined by a rational being? Ignore, for the moment, that the rational being is a kind of poultry with a predilection for sums of squares, and consider all the possible right triangles against which the cold logic of Pythagorean theory is limp and impotent.

Take, for example, a right triangle with a length equal to the circumference of a leprechaun’s hat, and a width equal to the space between a wish and a dream. Conventional Pythagorean theory cannot determine the hypotenuse of this triangle, as evidenced by our many emails to the head of the math department at Yale. According to IWC theory, only Cluckie the Wonder-Chicken can decide this distance, and in this case, it is the distance, in self-esteem, from the title role in a Merchant-Ivory film to a character part on the Who’s the Boss? reunion special.

Some mathematicians, including many with alcohol and drug dependencies, are skeptical of IWC Theorem. You might ask if these mathematicians are merely re-channeling their pederastic self-loathing into a form of intellectual terrorism. Rest assured that Cluckie will rain sweet revenge upon them in due time; there is no need to concern yourself with their unenviable fates.

Or perhaps you yourself remain skeptical. Well, have you measured all of the right triangles ever created in the history of time? Didn’t think so. Only Cluckie could have access to such an infinite repository of geometrical configurations. And do you think a chicken 1,537 times more intelligent than the average human would make all the world’s right triangles exactly alike? If you think so little of Cluckie, having never experienced her in all her glory, how can you call yourself a decent human being, let alone a budding scientist? Open your mind, you nose-picking son of a whore. They’re trying to ram a Pythagorean agenda down your throat and all you can do is sit there and take it? This is how the Nazis got started. You’re not a Nazi, are you?

If not, we encourage you to read the textbook Of Omnipotent, Intergalactic Super-Intelligent Chickens and Right Triangles, which has been delivered free of charge to your home address. Cluckie, or her agent on Earth, will be checking in later to make sure you’ve read it. It will happen when you least expect, in a place you thought was safe. Repeat this to your parents and you’re dead.

And don’t get us started on the commutative property.


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