To the editors:

Most of Cecil Adams’s comments on the pi calculations [March 16] were reasonable, but the last few sentences were not. Gregory Chudnovsky is one of the people doing these calculations, and he is the wisest man I know. Adversity can lead to deep growth. He got myasthenia gravis when he was 10 to 12, and has spent the last 25 years in bed or a wheelchair. The KGB worked the family over in their traditional way before the family were allowed to leave Kiev about 12 years ago. He was the one mathematician in the first group of MacArthur fellows and the best appointment of all of those in mathematics.

There are serious questions about what random is, and David and Gregory Chudnovsky care about it. Their pi calculations are concerned with this, and with certain deep problems in transcendental number theory. The right way for Cecil to have answered the letter would have been to write that the people who do these calculations probably know why, but Cecil has been unable to find out why. Even the Straight Dope does not know all the answers.

Richard Askey

Department of Mathematics

University of Wisconsin


PS: By the way, Gregory Chudnovsky is as well read as anyone I know. As Herbert Robbins once said, Gregory seems to have come directly from a Dostoevski novel.

Cecil Adams replies:

Well, excuuuuse meee. However, see below.