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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Duck Soup (1933)

RUFUS T. FIREFLY (Groucho Marx): Chicolini, give me a number from one to ten.
CHICOLINI (Chico Marx): Eleven.
“A number from one to ten” refers to the ordering of the integers. With respect to the everyday ordering, as one pictures on a number line, Chico and Groucho are of course wrong. However, there are lots of (infinitely many) other ways to order the natural numbers. For example, we could order the numbers
10, 9, 11, 8, 12, 7, 13, ….
Here, 11 is indeed between 1 and 10. This ordering may not be as “natural”, but it is legal, and is just as acceptable as an ordering, certainly in the zany world of a Marx Brothers movie.