Sunday, October 30, 2011

What can 7 objects say? Or 100?

     A friend, a high school art teacher, had one of her students paint a portrait of her -- not of her bodily self but a still life of the seven possessions that she felt best defined her.  Since that time, more than seven years ago, I have been trying to decide what my seven objects would be.  How might I portray me?    
     An article in today's NY Times, "Stuff that Defines Us," reminded me that I have neglected that project.  The article tells of the British Museum's ambitious and fascinating project to choose 100 objects from their collection to summarize the history of the world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Music on the hypotenuse

Dr. Cai Tianxin is a professor of mathematics (specializing in number theory) at Zhejiang University, China. He also is an accomplished and  well-known poet.

   The Number and the Rose     by Cai Tianxin 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Submit math-science poetry

During the month of November, the online journal Talking Writing is seeking submission of poetry with connections to mathematics and the science.  Submit 4-6 poems to
          O                                T     T                 
          ON                                 E               
          ONE                           N     N

These visual poems "One" and "Ten," above, are mine.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chaos Over the Hors d'Oeuvres

Some systems of equations can produce vast changes in output with only small changes in input.  Or not.  This sensitivitiy to initial conditions is a key characteristic of chaos.  As happens not infrequently in mathematics, the term chaos also carries larger-world meanings additional to the correct ones -- indeed, the phenomena studied in chaos theory are not haphazardly disordered but are complex.  Very very complex.  Judy Neri's poem addresses this topic. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Permutations and Centos

A Cento is a collage poem made of lines taken from other poems -- such as a sonnet composed of lines from fourteen of Millay's sonnets, or Shakespeare's -- or from newspaper articles or television advertisements or whatever. Here's a three-line sample from a Cento, "Patchwork," composed by Joanna Migdal to celebrate women poets.

   I dwell in Possibility.                                              (Emily Dickinson, #657)
   Yes, for that most of all.                                        (Denise Levertov, “The Secret”)
   It’s four in the afternoon. Time still for a poem.   
                                                                        (Phyllis McGinley, “Public Journal”) 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A whole and its parts

     Aristotle may have been the first to assert that a whole is more than the sum of its parts.  Mathematics textbooks are likely to say otherwise, postulating that a whole is equal to the sum of its parts

     Emily Dickinson also comments on the matter.

                (1341)         by Emily Dickinson

     Unto the Whole -- how add?
     Has "All" a further realm --
     Or Utmost an Ulterior?
     Oh, Subsidy of Balm! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Things the fingers know

Blogger Peter Cameron sent me a link to an lively article, "Eveline Pye: Poetry in Numbers"  in the September 2011 issue of the statistics magazine, Significance.  Written by Julian Champkin, the article tells of Eveline Pye -- lively and interesting Glasgow statistician, teacher, and poet -- and includes a selection of her work. One of the poems offered therein is "Solving Problems."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A small Fib

My dilemma

   the art
   of careful
   thought, asea in floods
   of  trivial  information.               by JoAnne Growney

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hamilton -- mathematician, poet, Irishman

     October 15-22 is Maths Week in Ireland -- as I learned from this article in the Irish Times celebrating maths and the Irish mathematician Willam Rowan Hamilton (1805 - 1865).  Turns out that Hamilton's quaternions are useful in design of video games and 3D effects in the cinema.
     Hamilton -- a mathematician, astronomer, and physicist -- was also a poet; a contemporary and friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.   His poems do not speak of mathematics -- but here is a sonnet he wrote to honor Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768 – 1830), a prominent French mathematician and physicist.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Like poetry, mathematics is beautiful

     Congratulations to Justin Southey who is completing his doctoral studies in mathematics at the University of Johannesburg under the direction of Michael Henning. Recently Justin contacted me to ask permission to include one of my poems in the introduction to his dissertation, "Domination Results:  Vertex Partitions and Edge Weight Functions."  Here is a portion of Justin's request: 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Numbers from the Piano

     Of all of the things we might try to say when we sit down to write a poem, which are the ones we should choose?  Sometimes we may say what first occurs to us -- begin to write and keep going until we are done.  This may suffice -- or it may seem to lack care.  To be more careful, we might seek a pattern to follow:  perhaps we might form lines whose syllable-counts follow the Fibonacci numbers.   Or construct a sonnet -- fourteen lines with five heart-beats per line and some rhyme.  Or devise a scheme of our own.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Counting the women

     The stimulus for this posting appeared a few weeks ago in the Washington Post -- in an article that considers the loneliness of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math). 
     For me, it was never a conscious thing -- the counting.  It simply happened.  The numbers are small and you know, if you are a woman and a mathematician in a room full of mathematicians, how many women are in the room.  Any room.  It is a small counting number.  Sometimes it is 1

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How I won the raffle

Dannie Abse is a deservedly celebrated Welsh poet -- and before his retirement he was also  a physician.  I first saw "How I Won the Raffle" in Poetry  in 1992 -- now it also is included in his collection Be Seated Thou (Sheep Meadow Press, 2000).

   How I Won the Raffle     by Dannie Abse

   After I won the raffle with the number
   the Master of Ceremonies asked me why,
   ‘Why did you select that particular number?’

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Action at a distance

One of the great things about writing this blog is the people who have -- out of the blue and across the miles -- sent along a great poem or tidbit.  One of the valuable contributors is Tim Love, a British computer guy and poet -- and also a blogger (at LitRefs). The mysterious concept of "Action at a Distance" drives this Love poem: