Little Miss Polly Nomial: a Mathematical Fable

Once upon a time (1/t), pretty little Polly Nomial was strolling across a field of vectors when she came to the edge of a singularly large matrix.

Now Polly was convergent and her mother had made it an absolute condition that she must never enter such an array without her brackets on. Polly, however, who had changed her variables that morning and was feeling particularly badly behaved, ignored this condition on the grounds that it was insufficient, and made her way in amongst the complex elements.

Rows and columns enveloped her on all sides. Tangents approached her surface. She became tensor and tensor. Suddenly two branches of a hyperbola touched her at a single point. She oscillated violently, lost all sense of direction, and went completely divergent. As she reached a turning point she tripped over a square root that was protruding from the erf, and she plunged headlong down a steep gradient. When she was differentiated once more, she found herself, apparently alone, in a non-Euclidean space.

She was being watched, however. That smooth operator, Curly Pi, was lurking inner product. As he numerically analyzed her, his eyes devoured her curvilinear coordinates, and a singular expression crossed his face. Was she still convergent, he wondered. He decided to integrate improperly at once.

Hearing a common fraction behind her, Polly rotated and saw Curly approaching her with his power series expanding. She could see by his degenerate conic that he was up to no good.

"What a symmetric little polynomial you are," he said. "I can see that your angles have lots of secs."

"Oh sir," she protested, "keep away from me. I haven't got my brackets on."

"Calm yourself, my dear", said our suave operator. "Your fears are purely imaginary."

"I, i," she thought. "Perhaps he's homogeneous."

"What order are you?" the brute demanded.

"Seventeen," replied Polly.

"I suppose you've never been operated on?"

"Of course not," Polly cried indignantly. "I'm absolutely convergent."

"Come, come," said Curly. "Let's go off to a decimal place, and I'll take you to the limit!"

"Never!" gasped Polly.

"Abscissa!" he swore, using the vilest oath he knew. His patience was gone. Coshing her over the head with a log until she was powerless, Curly removed her discontinuities. He stared at her significant places and began smoothing her points of inflection. Poor Polly. She felt his hand tending to her asymptotic limit. Her convergence would soon be gone forever.

There was no mercy, for Curly was a heavyside operator. Curly's radius squared itself. Polly's loci quivered. He integrated by parts. He integrated by partial fractions. After he cofactored, he performed Runge-Kutta on her. The complex beast even went all the way around and did a contour integration. Curly went on operating until he satisfied her hypothesis, then he exponentiated and became completely orthogonal.

When Polly got home that night her mother noticed that she was no longer piecewise continuous, but had been truncated in several places. As the months went by, Polly's denominator increased monotonically. Finally she went to l'Hospital and generated a small but pathological function which left little surds all over the place and drove Polly to deviation.

The moral of the story is, "If you want to keep your expressions convergent, never allow them a single degree of freedom."