20 Things You Didn't Know About... Math

5  Sometimes the oddest bits of math often turn out to be useful. Quaternions, which can describe the rotation of 3-D objects, were discovered in 1843. They were considered beautiful but useless until 1985, when computer scientists applied them to rendering digital animation.

8  Kurt Gödel, the renowned Austrian logician, made math a lot more confusing in 1931 with his first incompleteness theorem, which said that any sufficiently powerful math system must contain statements that are true but unprovable. Gödel starved himself to death in 1978.

19  Graduate student George Dantzig arrived late to statistics class at Berkeley one day in 1939 and copied two problems off the blackboard. He handed in the answers a few days later, apologizing that they were harder than usual.
20  The “homework” was actually two well-known unproven theorems. Dantzig’s story became famous and inspired a scene from Good Will Hunting...