On a recent rainy morning, I was decorating a particular tree -- the one that represents that great Tree of Life -- and I paused to consider how many presents my true love gave to me.
It's a simple problem, really. One partridge, plus two turtle doves, plus three French hens: It's basically the summation of an arithmetic series and there's a simple formula for it.
That formula is sometimes tied to the great 19th century mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. One day when he was a young boy, his school master was feeling particularly cruel and he asked the class to total all the numbers from 1 to 100. So the class set to scribbling, 1+2+3 etc.
But Gauss noticed something. He saw that you can break the one hundred numbers into fifty pairs: 1+100, 2+99 and so on. Basically you have fifty 101s. Fifty times 101 is 5050.