Thursday, February 28, 2013

Places to go, ideas to see

     Today I want to suggest interesting internet locations to visit.
     This first link leads to an hour-long documentary on YouTube on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920). Prepared in 1987 for the commemoration of Ramanujan's 100th birthday, this documentary honors a mathematical genius from whom we continue, still in the 21st century, to learn.  Ramanujan was celebrated earlier in this blog, on 18 February 2011, with a poem by Jonathan Holden.
     I want also to direct you to a Scientific American Guest Blog posting on 9 February 2013 by Bob Grumman.  Since his first SA Guest Blog posting on 28 July 2012, Grumman has been offering, about once a month, his unique views on the intersections of mathematics and poetry.  Primarily interested in visual poetry, Grumman features his own work along with that of numerous other poets -- including e e cummings, Betsy Franco, Scott Helmes, Gerald Kaufman. and Kaz Maslanka.  The 9 February 2013 posting features work by California activist Karl Kempton -- and I offer a sample below to encourage you to visit the SA blog for more of Karl's interesting work. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

One of the best -- and a woman

Women in mathematics have not been much-written-about.  This blog has made  a few corrective efforts and more are needed. Perhaps change is beginning -- for March is Women's History Month and the 2013 theme is:
 Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination:
Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Penn State University philosophy professor and poet Emily Grosholz uses mathematics not-infrequently in her work (for example, this posting of mine) and she has written (as I have) about discrimination suffered by mathematician Amalie "Emmy" Noether -- described by the NYTimes in a March 2012 article as "the most significant mathematician you've never heard of."  My own poem about Noether was  a poem of self-discovery in which I wrote of discrimination against her and began to see aspects of my own situation more clearly.  That poem, "My Dance Is Mathematics," appears in this blog's opening post --  on 23 March 2012.

Here, Emmy Noether is featured in Grosholz's poem, "Mind":

Friday, February 22, 2013

Counting for Freedom -- the Amistad trials

     Josiah Willard Gibbs (Jr, 1839 – 1903) was an American scientist who made important theoretical contributions to physics, chemistry, and mathematics.  His father, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Sr (1790 - 1861) was an American linguist and theologian, who served as professor of sacred literature at Yale University.  Although the son is well-known in scientific circles, it is the father who interests us here -- he is the subject of a poem by New York poet Stephanie Strickland.
     The senior Gibbs was an active abolitionist and he played an important role in the Amistad trials of 1839–40. By visiting the African passengers in jail, he was able to learn to count to ten in their language, and he then searched until he located a sailor, James Covey, who recognized the words --the language was Mende -- and was able to serve as an interpreter for the Africans during their subsequent trial for mutiny. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spheres and parallels

On 23 January 2013 I posted a latitude-longitude poem "Zero-Zero" by Elizabeth Bodien and today I offer another of her poems of celestial geometry, this one inspired by a painting by San Francisco artist Blazin.  Here, first, is Blazin's painting, followed by Bodien's poem -- both entitled "Midnight / Noon Along the Solar / Lunar Meridian." 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MathWoman Limericks

My desk dictionary describes a limerick as a nonsense poem; my own experience has found these five-line rhymes to be more often bawdy than nonsensical.  A mathematician and poet who has extended the limerick to verses about mathematics is Philadelphian and Arcadia professor, Marion Deutsche Cohen.  Downloads of mathy limericks are available at her website.  Scrolling down a bit on Cohen's page of downloads, leads to "Permission to Add" -- a collection of limericks based on mathematical ideas. Below I feature several limericks from Cohen's newest collection of limericks -- also available for download --  about women who are/were mathematicians

For example

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising

Below I repeat a syllable-square first posted on 18 August 2010 and included in Red Has No Reason.  Today, Valentine's Day, stand up and support "One Billion Rising" -- end violence against women.  

          More than the rapist, fear
          the district attorney,
          smiling for the camera,
          saying that thirty-six
          sex crimes per year is a
          manageable number.

Since this is a poetry-with-math blog I will end with a mathy observation:  this is a poem of 36 syllables that includes the number 36, a perfect square.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hilary Tham -- Counting a life

     Several of my friends speak with reverent admiration of Hilary Tham (1946  -2005),  noted Washington, DC-area poet, teacher, and painter (whom I never met, for she died a few weeks after I moved south from Pennsylvania).  Born in Malaysia, Tham came to this country as the bride of a man she had met as a Peace Corps volunteer.  In her book-length poem, Counting, Tham's poetic voice interprets her journey from Malaysia to New Jersey to Arlington, from Buddhism to Christianity to Judaism, from beginnings to explorations, from arrivals and departures to blessings.  Here, from Counting, is the opening poem. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Limericks and a Cardioid -- for Valentine's Day

     Oh, math-lover most divine,
     for you this mathy Valentine --
          found when I looked
          in a calculus book --  
     a cardioid is the heart-sign. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Odd numbers are common

A few weeks ago, on Thursday January 17, Chicago poet Virginia Bell was one of the very fine poets who participated (along with me) at a reading in Takoma Park.  Bell (a former TP resident) paid tribute that evening to Anne Becker, one of her teachers, who also read -- and beautifully -- that evening.  (Many thanks are owed to Sara Daines and poet Martin FitzPatrick  who organize these monthly readings.) Although Bell did not read any mathy poems at the TP reading, I found this one in her new collection:

Odd Numbers     by Virginia Bell

Monday, February 4, 2013

Problems of Translation

     June Jordan's poem "Problems of Translation: Problems of Language" (found at uses numbers and measurements from an atlas as her starting point for describing the difficulty of understanding between those of us separated by distance or language.
     I am writing this on the day after the Super Bowl, particularly conscious of the fact that I do not know the language of football.   And that many others do not know the language of mathematics.  Let us try hard to understand those things that are beyond language. 
     Here is the first section (of eight) from Jordan's poem:

Problems of Translation:  Problems of Language     by June Jordan

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tomorrow is (or is not) Groundhog Day

     Last year my February 1 post anticipated Groundhog Day with a poem that mentioned the crop damage that groundhogs do by tunneling under a field and nibbling the roots of crops.  Today's post was provoked by an "Urban Jungle" item concerning groundhogs in Tuesday's Washington Post
     When I was growing up (on a farm near Indiana, Pennsylvania) Punxutawney Phil was merely a local celebrity.  But the TODAY show and Bill Murray's 1993 film (showing at AFI in Silver Spring tomorrow evening) changed all that.  Here, in syllable-square stanzas -- based on the legend and recent climate change developments -- are several groundhog-day comments:

       Today's myth
       passes, the
       world moves on.