The origin of Wall Street dates back to the mid-seventeenth century at the settlement of New Amsterdam (later New York). Governor Peter Stuyvesant ordered the construction of the wall to better protect the colony and its livestock from native American and animal raids. His stated purpose for building the wall was to keep out the bears and keep in the bulls. In 1685, surveyors would lay out Wall Street along the lines of the original stockade and it would become an important meeting place for traders and speculators, eventually becoming the site of the New York Stock Exchange. Despite the fact that the wall was dismantled in 1699 and no longer exists, Wall Street remains the center of the financial world and traders continue to use the terminology bulls and bears. Bulls refer to periods when markets are rising and bears refer to periods when markets are falling.
So even today, the goal of Wall Street is to protect the bulls and drive out the bears.
Hachiko is a monument outside of Tokyo’s Shibuya train station that memorializes a dog with amazing loyalty. He was brought to Tokyo in 1924 by his owner Hidesaburo Ueno, an agriculture professor at the University of Tokyo. They established a pattern where Ueno would walk with Hachiko to the station in the morning, where he would commute to work, and Hachiko would greet him at the same station in the evening, where they would walk home together.
However, in May 1925, Professor Ueno did not return and would never go back to Shibuya station because he died of a stroke during the day. Hachiko was given away to another family, but he routinely escaped and return to Ueno’s old house. After some time, Hachiko began to show up at the Shibuya train station. He would show up at the station for the evening commuter train that Ueno used to take, waiting for his master. He continued the routine for over 10 years, surviving from scraps fed by passing commuters, especially as Hachiko became an evening fixture at the station.
In 1932, Hachiko gained notoriety in Japan when Ueno’s former students noticed that the dog continued to show up at Shibuya station as a sign of intense and extraordinary loyalty. After Hachiko died, an artist created a bronze statue of him that is erected outside of Shibuya train station, reportedly where the dog used to wait.
Today, the statue of Hachiko is a common meeting place for people in Shibuya, instantly recognizable to any resident of Tokyo. In the evening, hundreds of people can be found daily in the plaza where Hachiko sits.
On the first working day of the year, Japanese company men and women are required to go to the nearest temple and pray for the well-being of the company. It is usually a corporate event, so entire offices walk together and crowd into temples in amazingly long queues. Corporate executives also take the time to mingle in other offices, meeting with other executives to gladhand and wish each other well over the year. It is usually an informal opportunity to network with former mentors and colleagues.
Lines in front of the shrine. The queue at this temple goes out around the block.
As written by Andre Weil, another great mathematician, in the foreword of his unburied works from the dark recesses of a library corner:
On the 16th of April 1823, a number of fairies, summoned by Ganesha, the god of mathematical wisdom, assembled in Berlin at the cradle of an infant, to grant boons and bestow blessings. This was the first-born of a not too prosperous businessman who had married in June of the previous year; both parents were Jewish but had been baptized into the evangelical faith. Alas, as in all fairy tales, one old witch managed to creep in and resolved to undo, if she could, the work of the fairies.
“He will have genius”, said the first fairy, “and will be a worthy successor of Gauss, Dirichlet, Jacobi.”
“His life will be short and unhappy”, said the witch.
“He will have many brothers and sisters”, said the next fairy, “and will be tenderly attached to them, while remaining his mother’s favorite.”
“He will lose them all”, said the witch, “seventeen years from now he will see the last one, a beloved small sister, die at the age of seven.”
“He will have brilliant teachers at the Gymnasium and will make giant strides in his mathematical studies.”
“But first,” said the witch, “his parents will misguidedly send him for four years to a private school whose rigid discipline will almost break his already fragile health and make him a nervous wreck for the rest of his life.”
“In his first year as a student at the University of Berlin, he will attract the attention of Humboldt, the grand old man of German science, and of Crelle, the editor of the leading mathematical journal of his time, and will have more than twenty papers accepted by Crelle that same year.”
“Maybe,” said the witch, “but first, for his support at the University, his mother will have to accept a paltry sum from the royal indigent fund.”
“So what?” said one big fairy with a strong American accent. “Soon Humboldt will get him a yearly grant of 250 dollars from the Royal Science Foundation, and will get it renewed when needed.”
“OK,” retorted the witch, “but uncertainties about the payment and renewal of this stipend will plague and humiliate him for the rest of his life.”
“No matter,” said the next fairy. “Gauss, one of the hardest men to please in the mathematical world, will invite him, still a first-year student, to a visit in Gottingen, and from then on will take the deepest interest, not only in his work but also in his well-being. Jacobi, intent upon making him a ‘privatdozent’ and anxious to cut bureaucratic red tape, will arrange for him to receive an honorary doctorate at the hands of Kummer in Breslau: surely an unheard-of favor to a second-year student! Gauss, while proposing Dirichlet for a coveted distinction, will let it be known that he has ‘almost hesitated’ between him and young Eisenstein.”
“Much good that will do him!” exclaimed the witch with a sneer. “It will so enrage Jacobi that he will practically accuse your darling of plagiarism, in a wholly unmotivated footnote in Crelle’s Journal.”
“Who knows not what the easily inflamed Jacobi can do once his temper is aroused?” said another good fairy. “This incident will deeply distress the young man for a while but will do him no further harm. Soon he will be a privatdozent, and the great Riemann will be one of his students.”
“Not for long! Riemann will migrate to Gottingen and forget whatever number-theory his young teacher thinks he has taught him. In the meanwhile, I will have seen to it that Kronecker and Heine leave Berlin; the young man will remain isolated without any congenial friend or companion.”
One fairy thought that Gauss’ name had such virtue that it would silence the malevolent creature:
“In 1847, the great Gauss will write a highly flattering foreword for a collection of his protege’s papers.”
“Hardly anyone will read them,” replied the witch with utter contempt. “Then he will be so beaten up by the Prussian soldiery, during the revolutionary upheavals of 1848, that he will have to keep to his bed for a week; for two years he will publish nothing, and the reputation of being ‘red’ will stick to him and threaten to jeopardize his stipend and his career.”
“He will not remain idle during those two years, in spite of all discouragement and ill health; his publications of the year 1850 will show him at the peak of his powers. Dirichlet, with Jacobi’s concurrence, will propose him for membership in the Berlin Academy, and he will finally be elected in 1852, as Jacobi’s successor, a young man of not yet 29 years of age.”
“And then he will die”, said the witch triumphantly.
“But his name will survive”, said a tiny fairy.
“Hardly so,” said the hag. “Following academic usage, Dirichlet will read to the Academy a beautiful and moving eulogy of Jacobi, and Kummer will perform the same service for Dirichlet. But no member of the Academy will ever bother about the memory of the melancholy young man who had died in 1852. Still less will it occur to them to provide for the publication of his works, while voting ample funds for those of Jacobi, Dirichlet, Steiner, and later for Weierstrass and Kronecker. He will be forgotten, once and for all.”
“It is lucky,” said one last fairy in a small voice, “that you remind me of Kronecker. For many years, your curse will indeed prevent him from remembering the companion of his youth. But I will cause him to rediscover his friend’s work before it is too late, and he will make it the theme of the main lecture to be given at the inauguration ceremonies of the German Mathematical Society.”
The witch laughed loudly. “It will be too late! I will kill Kronecker’s wife, and he will cancel his lecture.”
“He will offer to write it up.”
“Before he does, I will kill him too, and then that name, which I do not want even to utter, will sink into final oblivion.”
There were no more fairies; but Ganesha had the last word.
“You forget,” he said, “that all your curses are of limited duration; one hundred and fifty years from today, their force will be spent.”
The founders of modern mathematics.
And so it has been. Eisenstein’s works were unappreciated in their time and it is doubtful that mathematicians today have fully caught up with his ideas. A century before anyone else did, he kicked off the trend of combining algebra and geometry rather than treating them as separate disciplines. Sadly, his name continues to be buried underneath other contemporary greats like Gauss, Euler, and Dirichlet.
Scientists and mathematicians have extremely wide ranges to pursue in expanding the boundaries of their knowledge, so the term “good” is vague at best. The pursuit of knowledge has many forms, which is why academia is entirely about personal ambition and has almost nothing to do with competition. But what terms do scientists and mathematicians use for the major areas? Well, this is folklore, because they have their own language that might be difficult to understand or easy to misconceive for the layperson. I will lay out the terms and their definitions.
-Problem-solving: a major breakthrough on an important problem
-Technique: a masterful use of existing methods or developing a new tool
-Theory: a conceptual framework or choice of notation which systematically unifies and generalizes a body of results
-Insight: a major conceptual simplification or the realization of a unifying principle or theme
-Discovery: the revelation of an unexpected and intriguing new phenomenon, connection, or counterexample
-Application: the use of tools in one field to solve problems in another
-Exposition: a detailed and informative survey on a timely topic or a clear and well-motivated argument
-Pedagogy: contributions to education, a lecture or writing style that enables others to learn and do the subject more effectively
-Vision: a set of conjectures, which are long-range and fruitful
-Taste: a research goal which is inherently interesting and impacts important themes, topics, or questions
-Public relations: an effective show-casing of results to a group of non-experts, either laypeople or experts in other fields
-Meta-(subject): advances in the foundations, philosophy, history, scholarship, or practice of the subject
-Rigorous: all details are correct and given in full
-Beautiful: results are easy to state but hard to prove
-Elegant: achieving a difficult result with a minimum of effort
-Creative: radically new and original techniques, viewpoints, or ideas for results
-Useful: a method which will be used repeatedly in future work on the subject
-Strong: a sharp result that matches the known counterexamples, or a result which deduces an unexpectedly strong conclusion from a seemingly weak hypothesis
-Deep: a result which is manifestly non-trivial, capturing a subtle phenomenon beyond the reach of more elementary tools
-Intuitive: an argument which is natural and easily visualized
-Definitive: a classification of all objects of a certain type, the final word on a topic
Obviously the various sciences have their own opinion on the weight and value they attach to each term.
This is a mnemonic device to remember the hierarchy of classifications for biological species, or taxonomic ranks. A couple friends and I actually invented this in middle school to help us remember. It goes large to small, and the first letter of each word of the phrase stands for:
It is a nice way to remember the basics.
The significance of this phrase is to serve as a mnemonic device to help students of anatomy learn the twelve cranial nerves of the brain, which collectively innervate every muscle and sensory nerve in the human body. The capitalized letter in each word stands for:
Another variation is “Oh Oh Oh To Take A Family Vacation! Go Vegas After Hours”.
A lot of these notes have been outdated by the invention of Wikipedia, but I’ll present it anyways.
Fakelore is considered the cowpies of folklore, as they are new creations that are played off as traditional stories. They are especially common in the United States, where companies create promotional characters and play them off as traditional heroes. Many conceptions of Santa Claus are also American creations by the Coca Cola company. This may also refer to new definitions for old concepts, another problem that occurs in folklore with improving technology. For example, blue moons used to be quite literal but its definition has changed with astronomical developments to mean two full moons in the same month.
Folklorismus is the modern revival of formerly dead traditions, mostly from descriptions or recordings. Examples are especially common in Japan, which experienced an outburst of interest in traditions following decades of modernist rejection. Arts such as taiko drums or kimono dances were resurrected. Tourism is probably the most common reason for such a revival, as native entrepreneurs create or revive folklore to satisfy tourist demand.
The reason these are troublesome is that the origin is often obscured, making it difficult to distinguish between actual folklore and modern creations. This can complicate efforts to study social life in historical context. As a result, ordinary people often fill in their own blanks and create a new imagined origin. A good example of this is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. People might give all kinds of answers if asked where the story came from. Interestingly, very few people know that the story was created by Robert May in 1939 as an advertisement for Montgomery Ward. (Protip: most Christmas stories are American creations)
Some semi-modern folklore from Japan. Satoru-kun is the Japanese version of Bloody Mary in the West. Satoru-kun is supposedly all-knowing and can be summoned by making a call to your cell phone from a public telephone. You’re supposed to say “Satoru-kun, Satoru-kun, please come here. Satoru, Satoru, please show yourself. Satoru, Satoru, please answer me if you’re there…” and then hang up. Within 24 hours, he will call you back, even if your cell phone is turned off. He will call many times until he’s right behind you (he must use Google latitude to find you, lolol), when you must immediately ask your question without looking at him. If you do any of this incorrectly, he will drag you to the underworld.
Hanako-san is a ghost that inhabits the 4th stall of the girl’s bathroom at every Japanese elementary school. Often she is believed to have committed suicide due to bullying, but sometimes she just happens to be a girl who died and went back to the bathroom. It instills fear in young Japanese girls of the number 4, which is bad luck because it is the same sound as the word for death (similar to Chinese).