Mathematical language can heighten the imagery of a poem; mathematical structure can deepen its effect. Feast here on an international menu of poems made rich by mathematical ingredients . . . . . . . gathered by JoAnne Growney.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dividing by Zero

Fairy godmothers have their magic wands and mathematician have division by zero as a way to make the impossible happen -- for example, we can show that 2 equals 3:

We start with the equation x = 0 and multiply both sides by x-1 to get x (x - 1) = 0 Now divide both sides by x to get x - 1 = 0 Now substitute 0 for x and add 3 to both sides to get 0 - 1 + 3 = 0 + 3 which simplifies to give 2 = 3

1. It was a childhood puzzle before we knew mathematicians called it an 'illegal operation' and banned its computation -- flashcards of stars in columns and rows, blue and gold, showing 8 or 4 divisible by 4, by 2, by 1, or -- zero? Nothing goes into something how many times?

2. Let 'something' be the all-in-all-of-it, the whole, and get as close as you can to nothing, now closer yet; divide; the result blows up, spilling over the edges of the longest time and farthest space. So surely zero into one could create the universe -- all the stars and the human race.

3. Or let 'something' be a lemon meringue pie, brown-curled topping, tart filling, tender crust -- imagine it waiting on some countertop, owned by no one, shared among none, gathering dust -- but no, the mold will divide it equally among its cells, if nothing else.

## No comments:

## Post a Comment