Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mathematical 'grooks' from Piet Hein

Piet Hein (Denmark, 1905-1996) was many-faceted--by times a philosopher, mathematician, designer, scientist, inventor of games and poet. He also created a new poetic form that he called 'grook' ("gruk" in Danish). Hein wrote over 10,000 grooks, most in Danish or English, published in more than 60 books. Some say that the name is short for 'GRin & sUK' ("laugh & sigh", in Danish).  Here are samples, with links to more:


          To Martin Gardner

"Lines that are parallel
meet at Infinity!"
Euclid repeatedly,
Until he died
and so reaching that vicinity
in it he
found that the damned things diverged.

The clever grook above I found in the fascinating collection, Imaginary Numbers: An Anthology of Marvelous Mathematical Stories, Diversions, Poems, and Musings, edited by William Frucht.

The website, Archmedes Laboratory offers backround information on Piet Hein and a sampling of grooks, including this next one with its smidgen of mathematical terminology.

Dream Interpretation, Simplified

Everything’s either
concave or – vex,
so whatever you dream
will be something with sex.

This next pair of grooks from the Poem Hunter website illustrate Hein's playful reactions to quantity:

Investment Policy

Anxieties yield
at a negative rate,
increasing in smallness
the longer they wait.


Nature, it seems, is the popular name
for milliards and milliards and milliards
of particles playing their infinite game
of billiards and billiards and billiards.

To purchase collections of Grooks, follow this link.

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