re almost inventing things

Sanjeev Gupta ghane0 at
Wed Jan 27 03:53:45 UTC 2016

On Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 2:45 AM, Mark Atwood <fallenpegasus at>

> My lesson I take away from that is not that I am some special fount of
> valuable ideas, but that nearly everyone who works in the right parts of
> the tech space is, but that means little, as ideas are cheap, it's
> execution that is valuable.

When I was 11 or so, in a secondary school in Africa that had a nice
building and a long history but few teachers and no textbooks, I tried to
make squaring a number easier by looking at how it could be cheated around.

Eg: The square of 38 is quite difficult to calculate, you need 4 multiply
steps, and a bunch of addition, and a place to write stuff down.  There
MUST be a way to get the answer, trivially, from the square of 3 and 8 (not
30 and 8, that is not much help).

I am not sure when I spotted the pattern, but have you realised that
squares of successive numbers always differ by an odd number, which
increases each time by 2?  You have?  Drat.

I remember waking my Dad (a practising Civil Engineer) to tell him this: I
could calculate 38^2 with a simple addition if I knew 37^2.  He nodded, and
did not destroy my happiness.  I was so happy at my insight, I dropped work
on the original problem.

A couple of years later, I found out that a mythical guy called Isaac
Newton had gone further, and also figured out a way to predict the odd
number.  Mythical, because, frankly, no one I have met has ever seen him,
he does not post to newsgroups, he has no Twitter account, etc.

PS: I tried to get Isaac Newton's birthday declared a holiday in my school,
and was told we had too few teaching days.  Considering the Asst Headmaster
was also our Physics teacher and our Chemistry teacher, etc, and we had no
lectures for weeks on end as he ran around, I am not sure what he thought
was going on on normal days, let alone on Newton's birthday.

Sanjeev Gupta
+65 98551208
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