Ted (merovingian) wrote,


I started doing various computations about the "12 days of Christmas" song. Every answer, of course, could be solved with the 12th row of Pascal's triangle, counting from zero.

"I'd better ask some people in the circus about this!" I said.

Off I went. I stayed for several shows, trying to find a good opportunity to ask some of the performers about the whole thing, but for some reason they were too busy to talk about math much.

I noticed another guy who was lingering around for every show, too. He was reading a book most of the time, but occasionally he would get really, really interested. I asked him why.

"I'm watching the dancing bears," he said, "Dancing circus bears have a strange occult history. In Russia, Pagan sorcerers would read the future by observing the movements and reactions of bears, and so many of them kept bears. When Christianity came to town, they had to stop doing that, but they still had all these trained bears around. So they concealed what they were doing by calling it a performance act instead of magic. But the truth is, a dancing bear is really entertaining, so people quickly forgot all about the magic part and just enjoyed dancing bears. I'm compiling notes on the bear's movements and comparing them to what they might predict, to see if dancing bears still have that divinatory power."

He showed me his notes. They had an underlying mathematic to them, and of course it mapped neatly to Pascal's triangle.

Sometimes the world brings you awestriking joyful beauty and you're so overwhelmed with it you don't know what to do.

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