• Published 4th Oct 2014
  • 3,738 Views, 78 Comments

Sugar, Cubed - BlazzingInferno



Twilight has loved math since she was a filly. Much to her surprise, Applejack has too.

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Theory to Application

Double Factorial stood at the podium. “And the regional winner of the one hundred forty-fourth annual math competition of the Equestrian Math Club, who will progress to the final round, is–” a hush fell over the audience “–Maud Pie, for her unprecedented solution to Furmat’s Last Theorem.”

The cheers that erupted through the crowd were mixed with gasps. Twilight and Luna stared at each other.

Luna pointed at the stage. “Did he say…”

“Furmat’s Last Theorem? That problem’s been unsolved for… for…”

Luna nodded. “Two thousand years.”

Double Factorial tapped on the microphone again. “Care to come up and share a few words, Maud? Perhaps a preview of your formal proof?”

The crowd fell silent again as Maud left the first row and stepped onto the stage. When she reached the microphone, she stared out at the crowd with a perfectly stone-faced expression.

“I work on a rock farm. Last month when I was rotating granite in the South field, I accidentally found a link between elliptic curves and modular forms, two previously unrelated branches of mathematics. A proof to Furmat’s theorem was the inevitable consequence. I don’t yet know how this will apply to my larger body of work in geology.”

Her emotionless stare was met with slowly growing applause. By the time Double Factorial had resumed his position at the microphone, the crowd seemed to have regained its full enthusiasm. When they had finally quieted down he tapped on the microphone once more.

“On behalf of myself and the other judges I’d like to thank all of you who put so much time and effort into advancing not only mathematics, but the pony way of life that’s increasingly dependent on it. Advance copies of all the contest entries, including Maud’s groundbreaking work, are available at the back of the–”

Twilight’s focus on the stage broke when she heard her friend sniffling. “Applejack? What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing Twi, just let me be. I should’ve never come here.”

Ponies left their seats as Double Factorial adjourned the meeting. Applejack stayed seated, and Twilight didn’t leave her side.

“Applejack, you’ve been acting weird ever since I ran into you. I’m your friend. Please tell me what’s wrong.”

Applejack pulled off her hat and wiped it across her tear-streaked face. “I know it’s silly, but part of me actually thought I’d win this thing. Not for me, but for my… my dad. These numbers… this math was his life, and because of him it’s been part of mine too. He smiled through things that would’ve plumb sent me over the edge. He lived his whole life on the farm without any special schooling for his talents, and after he and Ma… after they were gone, I just did the same. I never told anypony because… well, I don’t rightly know anymore, just fillyhood fears about how I’d get treated.”

Twilight stared at the floor. “Applejack, I… I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through. I’m so sorry if I made it worse.”

Applejack wiped her eyes one more time and returned the now-damp hat to her head. “It’s not on you, Twi; it’s me. I passed up college, stallions, and plenty more to keep the family together and the farm alive. Pa deserved some recognition for all he did, and some fool part of me thought I could give it to him.”

“Excuse me, Miss Applejack?”

She and Twilight looked up to see Luna and Double Factorial standing in front of them. She blinked away the last few tears. “Yes?”

“Princess Luna here tells me that you’re the author of the Apple Distribution? You’re SC?”

“That’s right. Doesn’t quite measure up to cracking some two-thousand-year-old puzzle, I guess.”

“Yes, well, I daresay Miss Pie’s talents are something else entirely… but I came over here to discuss your work.”

“What about it?”

He adjusted the glasses perched on his nose. “Well… how do I put it… this contest only bothers with first place. If we were a tad more broad in our recognition, you could’ve easily captured third or even second; no offense intended, Princess Luna.”

Luna rolled her eyes and sighed. “None taken. Please continue.”

“I suppose what I mean to say is, this contest highlights one big, flashy contribution to a field of study that most ponies consider boring. Maud’s proof will make headlines, but your work has a chance of bettering our way of life. That’s why I started in this field, and I’m sure many would say the same. I’d like to shake your hoof and say I look forward to whatever you decide to work on next. Where did you receive your degree?”

She opened her mouth but didn’t speak for a moment. “That’s… that’s some high praise for a farmer like me. I don’t have any degree, unless you count bucking apples.”

His eyebrows shot up, which prompted him to adjust his glasses again. “You mean to say you have no advanced mathematical education, that with no formal training you… my word… would you be interested in a scholarship? I’ll have my secretary draw up the paperwork and send it by mail; please do consider it.”

She looked just as surprised as he did. “Scholarship? You’d admit an old farm hoof like me to–”

“Excuse me.” Maud was standing on the other side of Luna, still bearing the same emotionless expression. “I just read your paper. It was brilliant.”

Luna smiled. “Why thank you, Maud, I’ve studied planetary motion for–”

“Oh, sorry. I meant her.”

Applejack stared at the hoof pointing at her. “You read my whole paper, just now? How’d you even know it’s mine?”

“I read all of them. I singled you out through process of elimination. Yours was my favorite.”

“But… but you won, Maud; you won hooves down.”

“Your discovery might actually be applicable to my field. I’d like to try your distribution against my work in rock farming.”

Applejack matched her blank stare. “Can’t really say that apples and rocks have that much in common, but suit yourself I guess.”

Maud nodded. “I’ll keep you apprised of my findings.”

As Maud walked away, Luna gave her a withering glare. “I have been doing vector calculus since her precious rocks were formed from dust… What ever happened to all the theorists and astronomers?”

Twilight put a hoof around her friend. “I think you just won your dad some pretty big recognition, Applejack. A chairpony from the biggest university in Equestria, and… well Maud’s going to be in history books.”

Applejack gave a tiny nod. A hint of a smile was forming on her face. “I guess I did. Thanks, Twi. I wouldn’t have been able to see this through without a good friend like you by my side.”

Twilight pulled her into a hug. “Any time, Applejack. I can’t wait to see what you work on next.”

“Next?”

“I doubt your dad wanted you to stop after just one paper. I’m sure he would’ve wanted you to pursue your talents and be happy.”

Applejack took a deep breath and stood. “You’re right, and I’m never gonna be happy if I keep this up.”

“Huh?”

“The Apple Distribution was his work, Twilight; I just put the final touches on what he wasn’t around to finish. I’m glad I did it, but it’s high time I moved onto some research of my own.”

“That’s great! What’re you going to study?”

She shrugged and smiled big. “Don’t quite know yet. Give me a lifetime, I’ll think of something. Just make sure you save me a spot at the next club meeting.”

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Comments ( 59 )

Hmm, not bad, actually, though the subject matter is a little dry-ish.

As someone who loves math (but is terrible at it), I caught all this and figured out why it was important without having to do a simple Google search. I can thank my dad for that, just like Applejack.

Wonderful story. Thank you for writing it.

I quite liked this so far. It's nice to see another side to my favorite pony. Please keep writing!

5102435
Thanks! Sorry I forgot to change the status to 'complete', sorry if you were expecting more.
Generally speaking, I'll definitely keep writing :pinkiehappy:

5102268
Thanks! :twilightsmile:
I have a bachelors in physics. I had to do obscene amounts of calculus to get my diploma... and absolutely none since. I work in software now and use almost no math at all. It wouldn't be so bad if calculus hadn't nearly destroyed my ability to add and subtract... :ajbemused:

5102653 I was bored as hell with my college math classes, so I went with an anthropology degree so I could take anything I wanted.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOORIIIING

As someone who hates math (and is terrible at it), I found I still loved this story. It feels like it ended a bit abruptly, but considering the placement of the story (just before announcement of the winners) it actually works just fine. Thank you!

That's a really good title, hence the reason why I'm here. I'll be adding this to my RL list for the future.:twilightblush:

5102711 Don't you have a bridge to hang out under and harass goats?

5102728
I'm especially glad that someone who hates math still loved the story. I agree, it's kind of an abrupt end but I'm glad you think it works as is. I find myself writing lots of short stories that could be longer (and often penning sequels as a result); when it comes to MLP I tend to come up with short things that resolve quickly. I've written novel length stories, they just aren't MLP related.

Overall, some of this seemed rough, and I feel like there could have been parts you could have expanded on.

Other than that, this was quite the enjoyable read! The idea was something I've never seen (and the title was the perfect little pun), and the story behind it was simple, yet well thought out.

Easily one of the better Applejack stories I've read. Good work! :twilightsmile:

DJRD

Wow, people. Show Luna some love. I mean, she did some pretty BIG SHIT in her paper.

5103950
I wrote the darned thing and yet I agree. Poor Luna :raritycry:

Applejack and family/friends, nothing else matters...

My suspension of disbelief doesn't strain quite that far. It's a popular theme to imprint hidden depths on characters, but this is just too far out. It's as likely or supported by canon as Fluttershy secretly beeing a thug for the Mafia.
Also there is a huge difference between a doing a little arithmetic with one or two unknowns and actual mathematics on the level of proving Fermat's last theorem. Even as a mathamatical prodigy that takes huge amounts of time and high education.
Even when hiding abilities like that certain patterns of thinking would show. An educated Applejack is just not what I saw in the show.

5103627 Don't you have other websites where you can offend other people without even knowing them?

But.. Apple pony is bad at math..

5104785
Don't be so stereotypical. You wouldn't know it unless they have said it them selves

5104935
>simple arithmetic
>"don't muddy the issue with your fancy mathematics"
>rekt

5104554
Fair enough. Thanks for giving this a read and a constructive comment. This does stretch AJ quite a bit, although I think giving her an experimental, hoofs-on type of problem to solve helps a little, considering how pragmatic she is.

Maud is... out there, to say the least. I've read a fair bit on Fermat's last theorem and how it was cracked. I didn't mean to belittle the tremendous amount of training and hard work involved in serious mathematics.
Fermat just fit the bill for Maud's role here: famous unsolved problem with limited immediate practical application (although I'm sure there are plenty of useful side effects). Then again there are people out there that can sum an infinite series in their head and then work backwards on paper to figure out how they did it...

Ouch, poor Woona. That must be a blow and a half to her pride.

That was quite an interesting story! Although short I think you conveyed the message very clearly with a little bit of math thrown in. Well done.

5104994

But she didn't say she isn't capable of doing it.

Heheeheeeh I can't wait to read more

Great slice of life story, I loved Applejack's nickname and also Luna's temper. I would consider removing the sad tag, though, I don't think this story deserves it. No real sad things happen, and it has a happy ending.

PBL

Hehe, poor Luna.

5109158
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it :pinkiehappy:
Since it has a happy ending I'd say it doesn't deserve a tragedy tag, but sad? I think it's a little sad; at least when taken from Applejack's perspective. I could be wrong :ajbemused:

5121089 ehhhhh, at the end she doesn't win 1st place, but she gets acknowledgement for her father and made to feel like the honors she's received are more important than if she DID win 1st place. And yeah, its about her dead Dad, but we don't really focus on Applejack morning him, its mostly sweet and adorable flashbacks of a happy childhood, interspersed with a slightly humorous present time.
Applejack spends most of the story either happy, or at the very least adorably embarrassed. Honestly to me it seems a pure slice of life.

5121214
Hrrm. I'll have mull it over.
That's not meant to be a cop-out answer; I just don't take changing the tags lightly and you've given reason to potentially do so

5121249 No, I totally understand, you're the author and the tags in part help audiences understand what type of experience you want the story to be. I appreciate you taking my thoughts into consideration.

“Yes, well, I daresay Miss Pie’s talents are something else entirely…

Space missing.

“Scholarship? You’d admit an old farm hoof me to–”

Word missing?

I wouldn’t of been able to see this through

"have" not "of".
(Sorry. Mistakes bother me.)

5126172
Thanks for pointing those out :pinkiehappy:
Daresay is actually a word, albeit a somewhat archaic one. The other errors have been fixed.

5121249
Well, I enjoyed this story but the Sad tag almost scared me off. While your story is a bit melancholy, on this site I tend to see the Sad tag used for much more depressing tales. (whether or not the tag is being misused is another matter entirely)

Mathematics is a funny game. Some of the most important discoveries are entirely academic and will never really touch most people's lives. On the other hand, actual practical applications of numbers to real-world situations generally get less attention and acclaim, which is odd in a way.

I'm sure Dr Charlie Epps would be able to help Applejack realise just what is important about her work.

Applejack the math genius. Brilliant :ajsmug:

Poor Luna... Now watch her fuck with the moons gravity waves to prove her point :twilightoops:

Very nice its good to see somepony breaking the old all farmers must be hicks stereotypes but all and all it was a very good short story

5146484 Nonexistent.
...
School.
'Nuff said.

Well, it looks like somebody was doing their research. :twilightsmile:
Awesome story, I love it.

5149540

Well, it looks like somebody was doing their research

Indeed
I read that book some time during high school, I think. If you've ever found yourself wondering if I had a lot of real world friends growing up, wonder no more :pinkiegasp:

In all fairness I prefer his book on the history of cryptography.

I'm glad you liked the story :pinkiehappy:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I am very pleased that neither AJ nor Luna won; either result would have been hokey. I also appreciate the giant middle finger to all the "Applejack is bad at math" fics out there. :D This is excellent!

5201443
Nothing cures hokey quite like a deus ex Maudina! My insuferablely corny jokes on the other hand... those I can't do anything about.

I'm glad you liked it :pinkiehappy:

This is going in my favorites pile largely because I'm a statistician and nobody ever writes stories about statisticians. I had a lot of fun reading this. The writing was pretty fluid without a whole lot of wasted words (though I do remember some bits with young AJ that felt a bit belabored). Character voices were a little weak—AJ and Luna have very distinctive voices, but I don't think I could have told them apart during the competition scenes without dialogue tags/context.

I think the bigger weakness here, though, is that there's really not a whole lot of story. Sometimes that'll fly—when a piece is pretty much just about exploring a character, say—but this is really dressed up to be a story, what with its focus on a couple central events. AJ never really does anything productive, though. The paper is written and submitted off-screen, and while she learns something at the end (that math is a part of her that ought to matter to her, and something she can share with others), she's not much of a direct participant in learning that. The most active she gets is in the fight with the Carrots, but that doesn't seem to serve a whole lot of plot function, except perhaps to make her think she should hide her math talents, but even this link is never more than subtextual.

All that said, I did still enjoy this a lot (and cried by the end). I think it shows a good amount of skill, and I'm very happy to have read it. Here's hoping your future work is even better!

5227260
Thanks for your comments; I'm glad this story passed the (error?) bar with an actual statistician :pinkiehappy:
Adopting Applejack's accent took a bit of work, and I think Luna's voice suffered for it. Sorry about that.
You're right, AJ doesn't do too much here, and a lot of things are left as subtleties. In some ways this story would've benefitted from being longer to explore some of those other key moments (writing the paper, grieving for her parents, etc). On the other hand I didn't want to put too much distance (word-wise) between the opening scene and the outcome of the contest, and I didn't want this to turn into a mess of confusing flashbacks that spanned half her life. Overall I guess I planned on this being a story about how AJ feels during these various times, as opposed to how she acts. It's not perfect, but I'm glad it pulled a heartstring or two.
Regardless, what I write next will be much improved by your insights :twilightsmile:

Will we finally know how the Apple parents died? We shall see...
No surprise that Apple Jack is good with numbers after all she does the marketing of apples and apple related produce. As for being a math wiz well... that is in between the realm of plausible and AWSOME!!!! Also she showed up Luna... that's just down right funny.

This story felt kind of incomplete to me. I got the first chapter, then the second chapter was a flashback, then... I didn't really feel like the setup paid off very well. There wasn't anything really super dramatic there, it just was a scuffle, it didn't really seem to go anywhere or explain why Applejack was embarrassed about being good at math.

5105649
Given that Maud is from a rural area and probably far from any big-name institutes of higher education, perhaps you should have had her make discoveries in continued fractions and mock theta functions.:pinkiecrazy:

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