Easter eggs and yellow pigs

An Easter egg is a hidden feature, a kind of joke. The term was first used in video games but the idea is broader and older than that. For example, Alfred Hitchcock made a brief appearance in all his movies. And I recently heard that there’s a pineapple or reference to a pineapple in every episode of the television show Psych.

Michael Spivak put references to “yellow pig” in some of his books. I’ve heard that he put allusions to yellow pigs inĀ all his books, but I don’t have all his books, and I haven’t been able to find yellow pigs in two of his books that I do own.

Spivak’s calculus text is dedicated to the memory of Y. P.

Dedicated to the Memory of Y. P.

If you look up yellow pig in the index of the book, it will take you to a page that makes a passing reference to “whole hog.”

Spivak’s publishing company, Publish or Perish Press, originally used a pig as part of its logo.

Publish or Perish old logo

The website now has no logo. His most recent book, Physics for Mathematicians: Mechanics I, uses a different logo.

The cover of Spivak’s Differential Geometry, Volume 1, second edition, has two yellow drawings of a pig.

Cover of Spivak's Differential Geometry, Volume 1, second edition

If you look up yellow pig in the index, it takes you to a page that doesn’t mention pigs, but does include a drawing that looks something like a ham.

Ham-like illustration from Spivak's Differential Geometry, volume 1

I do not see a reference to yellow pig in Spivak’s first book, Calculus on Manifolds. It was published by Benjamin Cummings. Maybe they would not allow Easter eggs, or maybe the idea of including Easter eggs didn’t occur to Spivak until he had his own publishing company. I also do not see a reference to yellow pigs in his recent Physics for Mathematicians book.

5 thoughts on “Easter eggs and yellow pigs

  1. The title is Physics *For* Mathematicians, but I’d definitely be interested in a book on the Physics *Of* Mathematicians

  2. Yellow pigs (and the number 17) have a totemic meaning for some mathematicians. The origin story is here, and it is propagated here. (I’m not involved in either of these but met some people in grad school who were.)

  3. computationally_challenged_person

    Spivak passed away last year, in October. Only recently, however, was I made aware of his passing. His Wikipedia page’s edit history led me to a PDF containing a death verification letter issued by the state government of Texas. The PDF was uploaded by Lance Carnes, who works for PCTeX, apparently. CTAN too says that Spivak is deceased.
    A great mathematician and expositor, no doubt. His Calculus and Differential Geometry books influenced a generation. He surely will be missed.

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