Pancakes also come in a cosmological version, the lusciously named Zel'dovich pancakes. For me, the term has always conjured dripping layers of cream and syrup, a cosmic cousin to Pavlova, though it actually refers to a mathematical model suggested by the Soviet physicist Yakov Zel'dovich to explain the formation and distribution of galaxies. Finally, we cap off our feast with a slice of that most famous of all gastro-mathematical delights, pi — or, as Homer Simpson once drooled, piiiiiiiiiie!!!
THE CONFLUENCE OF MATH, PHYSICS AND FOOD reaches its apotheosis in Alan Guth's theory of cosmic inflation, in which an audacious mathematical maneuver brings the vastness of the universe into being from a seminal cosmic seed. Guth has suggested that in light of this model the universe may be "the ultimate free lunch." Pulling itself into being from the foaming sea of possibility that physicists call the quantum vacuum, Guth's idea suggests a mechanism by which mathematical potential might be clothed in material form — creatio ex nihilo in symbolic terms. But, of course, nothing is ever truly free. In the end somebody pays. So too, we must tally our bill, and what more appropriate form of accounting than Douglas Adams' singular stroke of sci-fi genius, Bistromathics. Somewhere in the far distant future, Adams tells us in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sequel Life, the Universe and Everything, mathematicians finally wake up to a fact long understood by the common man: To wit, that "numbers written on restaurant checks within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in the Universe."
Our check thus acquitted, our heads spinning with monopoles — stomachs and minds equally sated — we mathematical diners bid one another farewell. As Adams would have said: So long, and thanks for all the fish.