The Portuguese Conspiracy

At Gathering for Gardner 11, a group of Portuguese mathematicians gathered together and announced themselves to be members of The Portuguese Conspiracy. I first got hip to this when Carlotta of the Portuguese Conspiracy finished her talk and pointed out a table which had been taken over by herself and her fellow countrymen. After that, the were no longer individuals, but members of a grand collective, known as the Portuguese Conspiracy.

Being the curious type, I wondered what the ulterior motives of the Portugese Conspiracy were. They never declared it outright, but by their frequent references to history, I suspect they plan to make Portugal (once again) the center of recreational mathematics in the Western World, and possibly for the entire world. And how could a small gang of Portuguese academics manage such an audacious feat? For starters, Portugal now hosts a biennial conference on recreational mathematics, and publishes not one, but two, international journals: one on recreational mathematics, and the other on board games.

I caught Carlos of the Portuguese Conspiracy in a moment away from his co-conspirators and asked him how his conspiracy expected to get people to come to conferences and publish articles in Portuguese. Oh, he told me coyly, everything is done in English, the “international” language. Tell that to an Italian in Rome! After a bit of nudging, I got Carlos of the Portuguese Conspiracy to concede that he, too, is aware that English is not that universal, not even in Europe. I suspect English is the “international” language of recreational mathematics for now. That is, until the Portuguese Conspiracy succeeds in their nefarious plot, whereupon serious scholars of recreational mathematics will have to learn Portuguese, and the next Martin Gardner will be Portuguese.

But the Portuguese Conspiracy had failed to identify a hole in their plan. I noticed that French game historian Lisa Rougetet was hanging with The Portuguese Conspiracy a lot, and often was one of the only non-Portuguese members of their circle. But she doesn’t speak Portuguese! As they say in France, cherchez la femme. Once the Portuguese Conspiracy succeeds in cornering the thought-leaders of recreational mathematics, they may find all the material and conferences are not Portuguese, not English, but rather in the “international” language of French (once again.)

Keep your eyes on those guys, and whatever you do, don’t pay any attention to the California Cabal.

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