Sun August 28, 2011
From Our Listeners

Your Letters: Our Favorite Numbers


JOHN YDSTIE, host: It's time for your letters. We received many responses to a piece by NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich, who reported on the efforts of math enthusiast Alex Bellos to find out how people choose their favorite numbers.

ALEX BELLOS: And people are, you know, sending me poems about numbers and saying things like, you know, I really love four but I cannot abide three and all this stuff gushes out. It's as if people have never been allowed to talk about this before.

YDSTIE: Many listeners weighed in on their favorites. Chelsea Wittenbaugh writes on NPR.org: I'm currently in Antarctica, and having just spent the winter here, I can tell you that our favorite numbers are usually in the positives. As in plus-13 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the time our numbers are in the negatives like minus-40. My personal favorite is 11 - positive or negative. It's not too bad. Krulwich reported that prime numbers are popular, as is a certain combination of numbers that, read upside down, can elicit giggles. Zohra Calcuttawala of Birmingham, Alabama didn't find it funny. She writes: I am left with having to explain to my 11-year-old son why two educated grown men were guffawing over the fact that a string of numbers in a particular order spelled boobies in English and Finnish. I am mad that such sexist and derogatory terms can now be heard on NPR about a seemingly innocent and interesting subject, such as numbers. And WBUR reporter Andrea Shea brought us a story about the revival and re-imagining of "Porgy and Bess." The performance has received mixed responses from traditionalists.

ANDREA SHEA: Before their adaptation even reached an audience, musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim sent a letter to the editor of The New York Times accusing the new "Porgy and Bess" team of arrogance and dishonoring the creators' intentions.

YDSTIE: We received many responses to our story. Marijane Milton commented on our Facebook page: A director who thinks they can improve on Gershwin, or pander to an audience with back-story is arrogant. A local director in my community decided to improve Shakespeare's "Macbeth" by assigning some of Lady Macbeth's lines to the witches. It's hubris. Mr. Sondheim is right. But Mike Costa is interested. He writes on NPR.org: I would love to see it. After all, Miles Davis also messed with "Porgy and Bess" and it came out pretty good. We welcome your comments. Go to NPR.org and click on the link that says Contact Us. You can also post messages for us on Twitter and Facebook, at NPR Weekend.


YDSTIE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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