Why the World’s Best Mathematicians Are Hoarding Chalk

Why the World’s Best Mathematicians Are Hoarding Chalk


(upbeat music) – The legend around this
chalk is that it’s impossible to write a false theorem. – I assume the special
ingredient was angel tears. – Mathematicians from all
of the top schools very frequently use it. – It’s a cult favorite. – As soon as I use it I was a convert. – The chalk is one of
the best kept secrets in the math world. – It’s the Rolls Royce of chalk. (gentle music) (chalk scratching) – Hagoromo is a brand of Japanese chalk. The way it flows on a board
is a bit hard to describe in words. – It’s really hard to get. You can only get it from
Japan, you need a Japanese person to bring it back for you. – I discovered it when I went to visit the University of Tokyo and
one of the professors there said to me, you know, we have better chalk than you do in the States
and I said, oh go on, chalk is chalk. And so I tried it out, and
I was surprised to find that he was right. – I tried it, and I
thought it was phenomenal. It’s the densest, it erases the cleanest, it leaves the nicest line. – If you use bad chalk
often you have to press really hard for anyone to
see what you’re writing so using Hagoromo on a good
board, it doesn’t really feel like you’re working hard to write. – When I’m teaching I
get a feeling of energy, confidence, and the
chalk absolutely helps. (chalk clacking) – Slowly the math world
has become aware of this, and it became a bit of
a fad in some circles. (upbeat music) – It was like maybe four
years ago the word came out that the company was
going out of business. I sort of jokingly referred
to it as a chalk apocalypse. So I immediately started
hoarding up as much as I could. – I ordered three boxes
of Hagoromo and kept it in my office and used it very sparingly. – I should’ve bought more but
I have friends that bought boxes and boxes and boxes of the stuff. They might very well be set
for the rest of their career. – We’ve got like 1,500 sticks. That’s a lot of days, four sticks a day. I think I’m gonna make it. – I have probably a 10-year
supply still at home. – I calculated how many boxes
would I need to last for 10 or 15 years. I didn’t wanna become a chalk
dealer, but I did like the idea that I could be
the first stick is free chalk dealer on the
block in my department. – I was probably selling
it regularly to maybe eight to 10 colleagues. I would reach into my
cupboard in my office and pull out another
box and we’d do the deal in my office. Yeah, we all had a chalk fix. And we still do. (gentle music) – The original Hagoromo
chalk is slowly disappearing. A few years ago, a Korean
company bought their formulas and did the best job of
faithfully reproducing it in Korea. – It was mixed emotions. I was happy to know that
it would still be made. But I was a little disappointed
that I was less clever than I thought I was. (gentle music) – In many ways mathematics
is like craftsmanship, in some ways it’s like artistry; in some ways it’s like science. But there’s a real high
craft side to getting a beautiful lecture on a blackboard. Mathematicians admire this in each other and like to use the best tools for it. – There’s incredible value
to this but the value is in using it up, not hoarding it. (gentle music)

100 comments

  1. Want to build up your own chalk collection? There's a Korean version of Hagoromo you can buy (we hear it’s just as good 😉). Note that this video is not an ad, but if you purchase a product we recommend, Great Big Story may receive revenue. Everybody wins!: http://bit.ly/2DLmmjn

  2. I’ve always hated the sound and feeling of chalk scratching the chalk board.

    Thank goodness everyone switched to white boards after 3rd grade

  3. John wick is a man of focus … Commitment … Sheer will. He once kill 3 men in a bar with a chalk … A fking chalk

  4. It's all fun and games until math teachers start planning (calculating?) elaborate heists to steal each other's Hagoromo stashes

  5. Teachers: Mathematicians are really intellectual people who really think about everything and don’t get distracted about small errors and things.
    Actual mathematicians: C H A L K

  6. Chalk dealer: This isn't like the last time, that was a reggie.

    Math teacher: Aight give me 3 boxes.

    Chalk dealer: This is good Japanese shit, hagoromo.

    Math Teacher: Give me 15years worth of supply

  7. Person : hey, you got the good stuff ??

    Teacher : yeah, you got the money ??

    Person : yeah i got the money, now give me the good stuff

    Teacher : puls out a box of chalk

  8. Imagine if this is just the most weird promotion for a brand that's going out of business and there's nothing actually special about it.

  9. I've heard of this chalk in a Japanese tv show. Made of shells. Making use of our garbage. That's good. Why went out of business?

  10. Colleague: pssst… you got it
    Professor: Yeah I got it, this ain't your ordinary stuff either, this is the good stuff from Japan
    Colleague: Here man take it pushes money desperately into his hands and gets in return a box full of chalk ….. oh yeah

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