42, 45, 57, 65, 235, 1729, …

The number crunchers at Microsoft, both financial and legal, have been crunching away lately.

The financial folks reported in news good for Microsoft and bad for all the folks paying high prices for Microsoft products that Profit at Microsoft leaps 65 percent.

The legal folks have also crunched away and now claim that Microsoft has a number of patents that relate to open-source. See for example Linux Foundation Prepares For Microsoft’s Legal Action, which says in part:

Microsoft carefully avoided threatening to sue any Linux users while nevertheless maintaining in a Fortune article today that 235 of its patents are violated by various forms of open source code. Sun’s Open Office suite allegedly violated 45 of Microsoft patents, while the Linux kernel allegedly violates 42 patents. Linux graphical user interfaces violated another 65, Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith and chief of licensing Horacio Gutierrez stated in the Fortune story.

Since we open-source folks may be in a crunch I’ve done a little number crunching myself.

I find it striking that just about midway between the 45 patents claimed to relate to Open Office and the 65 patents related to Linux graphical interfaces we find the number 57, a number that has had special meaning for me ever since I first saw John Schlesinger’s wonderful film Manchurian Candidate (based on the equally fine novel of the same name by Richard Condon) back in 1962. It is a conspiracy movie at heart and I suspect I am not alone among those who saw it who remember the appearance of the number “57” described in
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) as follows:

Senator Iselin is reflected off the glass covering a portrait of Lincoln – juxtaposing the ghostly-thin, anti-Communist with a stalwart American from another era, as he fixes himself a drink. As a spineless puppet, Senator Iselin complains to his wife that he can’t keep the number of Communists straight in the Defense Department: “I mean, the way you keep changing the figures on me all the time. It makes me look like some kind of a nut, like an idiot.” She holds up a newspaper and proclaims:

Well, you’re going to look like an even bigger idiot if you don’t get in there and do exactly what you’re told…Who are they writing about all over this country and what are they saying? Are they saying: ‘Are there any Communists in the Defense Department?’ No, of course not, they’re saying: ‘How many Communists are there in the Defense Department?’ So just stop talking like an expert all of a sudden and get out there and say what you’re supposed to say.

When he crumples, she apologizes for being dictatorial and brash: “Would it really make it easier for you if we settled on just one number?” As he pumps Heinz [commonly known as 57 Varieties] tomato ketchup from a bottle onto his steak, she arbitrarily decides on the exact number of card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the Defense Department for his script – so it will be easy for him to remember. [This is one of the film’s most amusing jokes.] In Iselin’s speech to the Senate later that afternoon in the next cut, he accuses the Defense Department of hiring ’57’ members of the Communist Party.

Crunching some more we find that if we multiply 235 by lucky 7 we get 1645, a number only 84 places away from another one of my all-time favorite numbers, 1729, and 84 is very close to the sum of 42 and 45. Go figure.

But I can offer some comfort to those who see “red” at this attempt by Microsoft to appropriate the integers as their own. After all, there are an infinite number of them …

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