Monday, February 14, 2011

Puzzles, puzzlers, and parody

     For lots of fun, go to plus online magazine at this link to find a poem that requires a knight's tour of a chess board for you to unscramble its words and read its eight lines.
     Many thanks to Greg Coxson who alerted me to this puzzle-poem.  Apparently it dates back to the 19th century and was a sort of puzzle popular before crossword puzzles were invented.  When you visit plus for the poem, please plan to stay there for a while and browse. This wonderful online magazine includes a multitude of math-related treasures. (Excellently edited by Marianne Freiberger and Rachel Thomas, plus is part of the UK's Millenium Mathematics Project.)

Continuing with a puzzle-theme, here's a puzzle (about poems) by Lewis Carroll :
     What conclusion may be drawn from these five statements:
        I.     No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste.
        II.    No modern poetry is free from affectation.
        III.  All your poems are on the subject of soap-bubbles.
        IV.  No affected poetry is popular among people of real taste.
        V.   No ancient poem is on the subject of soap-bubbles.

I found this puzzle, along with a solution, on a page of logic puzzles by Lewis Carroll -- a page maintained by G. N. Hile, an emeritus mathematics professor at the University of Hawaii.

     Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898) was both mathematician and writer, and a poet. Though he was a logician, Carroll's writings often blurred the line between sense and nonsense and his imagination continues to delight readers.   His verses are included in prior blog postings on 24 January 2011, 14 November 2010, 18 July 2010, and 17 May 2010.  Here, from Lewis Carroll in Numberland by Robin Wilson (W W Norton, 2008), are a few lines from Carroll's parody of The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -- the parody's title is "Hiawatha's Photographing" and it includes a nod to Euclid.

     From his shoulder Hiawatha
     Took the camera of rosewood --
     Made of sliding, folding rosewood --
     Neatly put it all together.
     In its case it lay compactly,
     Folded into nearly nothing;
     But he opened out the hinges,
     Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
     Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
     Like a complicated figure
     In the second book of Euclid.

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