Dividin by zero

by Tater Gumfries
Tater was thinkin about dividin by zero. Well, not like he was ponderin on commencin to do it, but he already done it a lot of times, and was thinkin about how that went. Most folk think you can't divide by zero. All the different math sects agree, that you just can't do that. "Math sects?" you might say, if you was the type to say things that way. Yep. They's different bunches of mathematicians who disagree about some real basic math. But not on dividin by zero.

You got your Constructivists, who's kinda like the Missourians of math, on account of you gotta show em before they'll believe you. Ain't good enough to suppose somethin don't exist and prove that notion leads to nothin but nonsense. Just because it don't existin is crazy, don't mean it exist. Some of em, call theyselves Intuitionists, don't think there's anything to that math -- it ain't really there. Just a bunch of fancy pants ideas all gussied up in them boy's heads, but ain't really nothin but fancy thinkin.

Then you got your Realists, which includes your Platonists, who think they's really some math out there, just waitin to get dug up and used. They say most mathematicians think this wise, and that makes sense to ol Tater. Any time he got some notion about math or such, it was already there and he just grabbed it and threw it in the poke.

They's also your Empiricists who's like fundamentalist Realists, on account of they think math is like dinosaur bones. You gotta really dig it out and dust it off and polish it up before you know what the hell it is and how to use it. Tater thinks that's a little silly, because what kind of dust gonna get in there? They's thoughts, not hard boilt eggs.

Then there's your Formalists, who think it's all a game. That would a been the kind of teacher Tater'd a liked. If it was a game, tell you what, lot more folks would play it. Might even pay good money, like over to the casino. Wouldn't that be somethin? The Navajo math casino, with that $6 buffet and live calculus nightly? Tell you what.

But the ones Tater thinks is oddest is the Fictionalists, say math and science is just a story we tell when we tryin to talk about physics or some other real human activity. The characters are numbers and such, and Tater supposes the equations are what them numbers are up to. Except them numbers ain't no more real than Santy Claus -- it's just a story. Tater don't know if they're serious, but hell, how can you take any of these  fellers serious don't even know what numbers you get when you divide by zero?

That's what got Tater started on this in the first place. Seems every time he divides by zero, he gets zero outta there. Then when he checks his division by multiplyin back, he gets all them numbers zero, so at least things pretty regular. Way Tater figures it, you multiply that number by zero and get zero out? Weren't much of a number to start with. Not if it can't take zero. So Tater he's using real big numbers. Numbers so big don't zero want no truck with them. You put them up against zero, and that zero will lie down flat. Give plum up. Then that number come through without a scratch.

And you know what? Tater found them numbers. Didn't make em up, and they wasn't little game pieces, and they weren't no characters in no story. They was lyin right there on top of them zeros all along. Now the big question is, you pick them all up, and you sweep away all them zeros, what's under there?

That's what Tater wants to know.