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 thoughts on “Why the World’s Best Mathematicians Are Hoarding Chalk”

  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?

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