Tragedy struck this cloistered campus community last night with the disappearance of popular math student Stan Slapernarski. Although details are sketchy, it appears that Slapernarski (known as Slap throughout the university) fell victim to a Halloween stunt gone awry. According to campus police officer Julius Orange, Slapernarski was getting ready for the Math/Stat Department's Halloween party, and suffered a catastrophic wardrobe malfunction. "He intended to go as a Klein Bottle and was ignorant of, or unconcerned about, that figure's inherent instability," Orange said. "Apparently, while using some stage props to alter his homotopy type, he became disoriented, fell into a pole, and diverged to infinity. There has been no sign of him since." It was not known whether alcohol was a factor.
The campus was in shock as news of the calamity circulated. Famous mathemagician Arthur Benjamin, on hand to perform before the Halloween party, said, "It is just a terrible, senseless, tragedy, and one I'm afraid will become all too common unless we wake up to the dangers of mathematics." He explained that the subject's rising popularity is attracting more and more students: "Unfortunately, they get caught up in the thrill of advanced experimental techniques, without adequate training or supervision. Slapernarski should never have attempted that transformation without the guidance of an experienced topologist."
Department Chairman Jeff Hakim was visibly shaken at the news. "We are in a state of chaos," he said. He stated that Slapernarski was a key member of the math club, serving as ringleader for the group. "Slap's disappearance has really thrown us for a curve," he added elliptically. The chair's mental state was reflected in the disarray of his attire. Hakim was to appear at the Halloween party dressed as the character Neo, but somehow he inverted his Matrix costume, and had his pants on inside out. Other members of the faculty tolerantly overlooked this eccentricity. "It's nothing out of the ordinary for Jeff," one remarked.
Slapernarski was a celebrated campus figure and a popular student leader. His exploits as captain of the campus mathematics squad were legendary. In addition, he was the front man for a successful garage band called "Moobius." In a recent review in the trade weekly Vocalville, the band's signature smooth covers were described as "complex and irrational, though somewhat derivative."
Strangely, Slapernarski's disappearance is not without precedent in his family. By a macabre twist of fate, he is the name-sake of a revered grand uncle who suffered a similar misfortune. The uncle's story was chronicled by popular mathematics writer Martin Gardner, whose account can still be found in ``The No-Sided Professor,'' (Prometheus, 1987). Attempts to reach Gardner for comment on the current happenings were unsuccessful.
Authorities still hold out hope for Slapernarski's eventual return. It is speculated that he ascended into a higher dimensional space when he assumed the Klein bottle configuration. "If and when he untangles himself, he might very well emerge again into our familiar three dimensions," said cosmologist Ellen Hurley-Braun. "We can only hope that when he rematerializes, he will resume his original orientation. It would be very inconvenient if he comes back inside-out, for example."