Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Numerical Poem (Fibonacci)

Consider the following poem involving the Fibonacci numbers:
        1/89 = .0        +
                  .01        +
                  .001        +
                  .0002        +
                  .00003        +             
                  .000005        +
                  .0000008        +
                  .00000013        +
                  .000000021        +
                  .0000000034        +
                  .00000000055        +
                  .000000000089        +
                  .0000000000144        +
                  .  ...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poems starring mathematicians - 4

Each of today's poems is in the voice of a student who looks back.  First, from Carol Dorf, a poem to the author of a book--written as a fan-letter, "Dear Ivar."   And then, for his hero (a special Grammar School teacher) by Czech poet and scientist Miroslav Holub (1923-98), "The Fraction Line."

       Dear Ivar,

       I read your book on the unexpected.
       Like most poets, I opposed mathematics
       when I was young, seeing it as the converse
       to feeling. The previous statement is false.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poems starring mathematicians - 3

Today's poems illustrate the satirical humor and rhyme that frequently inhabit poems by mathematicians. (Previous postings of poems about mathematicians include March 23, April 14, and April 15.)

I Even Know of a Mathematician      by John L Drost

        “I even know of a mathematician who slept with his wife only
                   on prime-numbered days…” Graham said.
                            ―Paul Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poems of Calculus

In her thoughtful poem "Calculus" mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz writes of sharing with her students some of their subject's history--a drama enacted by two different sorts of mathematician.  Here are Glaz' opening lines:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Square for Earth Day

Greetings on EARTH DAY.  Earth's inhabitants today pay a price not only for our own careless habits but also for earlier ignorance about the fragility of our world. (As Garrett Hardin has said, "There is no away to throw to.")  The April 20 edition of  the Washington Post had an AP article about the risks of trash to wildlife in the Atlantic that provoked me to write the following square poem.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April -- Poetry, Math, and Boxing

April continues—both as National Poetry Month and as Mathematics Awareness Month (with theme math and sports).  As in the April 9 posting on baseball, in this post I also blend these interests with a math-and-sports poem--this one celebrates boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Poems with Fibonacci number patterns

In 21st century poetry, there are a variety of non-rhyming forms--and several of them have derived from the Fibonacci numbers. The Danish poet, Inger Christensen (1935-2009), wrote a book-length poem, alphabet (New Directions, 2000) in which the numbers of lines in stanzas followed the sequence of Fibonacci numbers.  "Fibonacci," shown below, by Judith Baumel is a shorter example of this form.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Poems starring mathematicians - 2

Published a century later than William Benjamin Smith's "The Merman and the Seraph" (see April 14 posting) we have Crossing the Equal Sign (Plain View Press, 2007)--a poetry collection by Marion Deutsche Cohen.  Cohen lives in Philadelphia and teaches mathematics at Arcadia University where she has used her literary interests to develop a new course, "Truth and Beauty: Mathematics in Literature."  I have chosen several excerpts from Cohen's collection that offer internal snapshots of  her sort of mathematician:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poems starring mathematicians - 1

This is the first in a series of postings involving poems in which the principal subject is a mathematician.

     In “The Ideal Mathematician,” an essay in The Mathematical Experience, authors Philip Davis, Reuben Hersh, and Elena Marchisotto endeavor to describe the most mathematician-like mathematician:  He rests his faith on rigorous proof ...  He is labeled by his field, by how much he publishes . . .   He finds it difficult to establish meaningful conversation with that large portion of humanity that has never heard of [his research topic] ...  His writing follows an unbreakable convention:  to conceal any sign that the author or the intended reader is a human being ....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poetry and Mathematics -- Similarities

HOW are mathematics and poetry similar?

Often-quoted in mathematical circles are words from mathematician Karl Weierstrass (1815-97): “It is true that a mathematician, who is not somewhat of a poet, will never be a perfect mathematician.”    And from physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955):  "Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas." More recently, from Lipman Bers (1914-1993): “  . . . mathematics is very much like poetry . . . what makes a good poem—a great poem—is that there is a large amount of thought expressed in very few words."

Friday, April 9, 2010

April: along with baseball we celebrate poetry and mathematics

Is it coincidence or design that

     April  is  National Poetry Month

   April  is  Mathematics Awareness Month
          (This year's theme is  "mathematics and sports")

In my own reading, baseball is the sport for which I have found the most poetry.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Braided lines form a PANTOUM

The pantoum is derived from a Malaysian form of interlocking four-line stanzas in which lines 2 and 4 of one stanza are used as lines 1 and 3 of the next. The lines may be of any length, and the poem can go on for an indefinite number of stanzas; it may be completed with a final stanza that uses lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza as lines 4 and 2 of the last, closing the circle of the poem.  As with recursion, each stanza provides an impetus for the next.