Friday, March 18, 2011

Who are our prophets?

Here is the opening sentence of an article, "Mathematicians and Poets," by Cai Tianxin, a mathematics professor at Zhejiang University -- it appears in the April 2011 issue of Notices of the AMS:

     "Mathematicans and poets exist in our world as uncanny prophets."  

     Within the article are several poet-mathematician comparisons and contrasts -- "poets are thought to be arrogant" while "mathematicians are thought to be unapproachable."  "Both mathematics and poetry are products of imagination."  ". . . mathematicians think in an abstract way, while poets think in a concrete way."  Both mathematicians and poets use concise language.  (But not always.)
     "... mathematicians and poets often walk side by side on the frontiers of human civilization.  Euclid's Elements and Aristotle's Poetics, the two most important academic works of ancient Greece, were written at almost the same time."
     Near the end, this article raises the question of whether  ". . . someone can be a poet and a mathematician at the same time."  What do you think?

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