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Book In-Jokes in...
The Art of Computer Programming

 
by Donald E. Knuth
(2nd edition; Addison-Wesley, 1973)

In the introductory section “Notes on the Exercises”, Knuth includes several sample exercises for the reader's pleasure. The fourth one reads:
4. [M50] Prove that when n is an integer, n > 2, the equation xn + yn = zn has no solution in positive integers x, y, z.
The book was published about two decades before the centuries-old problem was solved. The “Answers to the Exercises” section lists the following answer:
4. See W.J. LeVeque, Topics in Number Theory 2 (Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1956), Chapter 3. (Note: One of the men who read a preliminary draft of the manuscript for this book reported that he had discovered a truly remarkable proof, which the margin of his copy was too small to contain.)
(BTW, if you're interested in the story of the problem and its solution, read this review.)

Another small in-joke can be found after the book's index. The comment at the bottom of the very last page reads:
Any inaccuracies in this index may be explained by the fact that it has been prepared with the help of a computer.
At the end of the second volume, Seminumerical
Algorithms (2nd edition, Addison-Wesley, 1981), the end of the index reads:
Any accuracies or inaccuracies in this index may be explained by the fact that it was prepared with the help of a computer, but not blindly.
Finally, the end of the third volume, Sorting and Searching, (Addison-Wesley, 1973), reads:
Any inaccuracies in this index may be explained by the fact that it has been sorted with the help of a computer.
Note that in the recently published 3rd edition, most of these jokes were removed -- or rather, replaced.
[Added 2000-01-01]
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Fuzzy writes:
[M45]
In the 3rd edition, Knuth changed the hardness of the exersice to [M45].
[26] Posted on Wednesday, 02 August 2006 at 22:32 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]


Jon Reeves writes:
Two others
You're missing two of the more subtle ones, both in indexes.

Sorting and Searching, 1ed, has this:
Royalties, use of, 405.
Page 405 has a diagram of an ''organ-pipe arrangement'' of probabilities, and in fact, Dr. Knuth has installed a pipe organ in his home.

Fundamental Algorithms, 2ed, has these two index entries:
Circular definition, 260, see Definition, circular.
Definition, circular, see Circular definition.
[575] Posted on Thursday, 01 April 2010 at 22:22 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

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