GULAGARITHM – The Wednesday Wordapod

Today’s (Wednesday) Wordapod provides a new term for the brilliant scientific theorems written by prisoners. Yes, just what we need.



Gulagarithm (n)a mathematical, or other scientific, theorem written from the confines of a prison camp

Sample Sentence:  When the Soviet officials imprisoned Sergei, they did not envision all of the gulagarithms the brilliant mathematician would create.

Who Knew…?

Many of the great mathematical theorems in history have been postulated by men and women while incarcerated. Two very profound ones are listed below.


In 1968, Alexei Rubanov, while in Siberia, gave us the famous Frozen Rope Theorem which (in so many words) said: “If two knots on a string, laid out on a tangential plane along contiguous axes are dipped in water and left outside at -10 degrees Celsius or lower, the distance between those knots will lessen in proportion to the amount the rope shrinks by freezing.”


100 or so years prior to Rubanov, George Nathans, a Union soldier, wrote the Theorem of Assimilated Colors from his cell at the Confederate Prison in Salisbury, North Carolina. His groundbreaking ToAC Theorem stated unambiguously, “If a bluish color within the visible spectrum producing light within a wavelength between 450 and 500 nm is overrun by a dull color between the hues of black and white (and considered to be grey), the following physical phenomena may be apparent:

  • the blue will be subsumed by the grey as if captured on a battlefield.
  • the essential characteristics of the blue will be assimilated over time and refracted indefinitely until fragments of green and violet appear prior to its disintegration and re-entry after 17 reincarnations.”


Nathans’ Theorem has many parts, the last of which is less theoretical, and very practical, (which I’ll paraphrase):  “If articles of blue and grey are mixed with a blood-red (an extreme color at the end of the visible spectrum with a wavelength between 610 and 780 nm), special care should be taken not to wash them in the same load unless the water utilized is less than 58 degrees Fahrenheit.”

With such wisdom available to us, we can only wonder what other theorems they would have given us had they been free men.


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