One of my teachers -- I think it was Mr Smith in "College Algebra" during my freshman year at Westminster -- gave me these words to remember:

When confronted

with a statement

that seems true

for all positive integers

the wise student

uses mathematical induction

as her proof technique.

## Friday, July 29, 2011

## Tuesday, July 26, 2011

### Bridges in Coimbra

Newton's binomial is as beautiful as Venus de Milo.

What happens is that few people notice it.

-- Fernando Pessoa (as Álvaro de Campos) (1888-1935)

translated from the Portuguese by Francisco Craveiro

## Sunday, July 24, 2011

### Little Infinite Poem

**Little Infinite Poem**by Federico Garcia Lorca

*For Luis Cardoza y Aragón*

To take the wrong road

is to arrive at the snow,

and to arrive at the snow

is to get down on all fours for twenty centuries and eat

the grasses of the cemeteries.

Labels:
all fours,
Duende,
Federico Garcia Lorca,
infinite,
infinity,
mathematics,
poetry,
Robert Bly,
two

## Thursday, July 21, 2011

### The wind, counting

Who can ever forget

listening to the wind go by

counting its money

and throwing it away?

listening to the wind go by

counting its money

and throwing it away?

Labels:
Carl Sandburg,
counting,
poem,
poetry,
wind

## Monday, July 18, 2011

### Finding a square root

Here is an old poem (1849) by George Van Waters that offers instruction on finding a square root. This process was part of my junior high learning at the Keith School in Indiana, PA lots of years ago but I suppose the algorithm is seldom taught in 21st century classrooms. (In case the poem's directions are unclear, additional instruction is offered here.)

Labels:
algorithm,
George Van Waters,
mathematical poem,
rhyme,
square root

## Friday, July 15, 2011

### I have dreamed geometry

**Descartes**by Jorge Luis Borges

I am the only man on earth, but perhaps there is neither earth nor man.

Perhaps a god is deceiving me.

Perhaps a god has sentenced me to time, that lasting illusion.

I dream the moon and I dream my eyes perceiving the moon.

I have dreamed the morning and evening of the first day.

## Monday, July 11, 2011

### Seeking a universal language

Is mathematics a universal language? Not only is this universality often postulated but also it was said -- some decades back -- that devices were broadcasting into space the intial decimal digits of pi, expecting that other intelligent beings would surely recognize the sequence of digits. Robert Gethner examines this arrogance in a poem.

Labels:
digits,
equations,
language,
mathematician,
mathematics,
Mathematics Magazine,
pi,
poem,
poetry,
primes,
Robert Gethner,
universal

## Friday, July 8, 2011

### Ancestry -- what counts

Etheridge Knight began writing poetry while an inmate at the Indiana State Prison and published his first collection,

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black

faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-

fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,

cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews. They stare

across the space at me sprawling on my bunk. I know

their dark eyes, they know mine. I know their style,

they know mine. I am all of them, they are all of me;

they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

*Poems from Prison,*in 1968. His poem "The Idea of Ancestry" shows us what a man in prison finds time to count:**The Idea of Ancestry**by Etheridge Knight**1**Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black

faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-

fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,

cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews. They stare

across the space at me sprawling on my bunk. I know

their dark eyes, they know mine. I know their style,

they know mine. I am all of them, they are all of me;

they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

Labels:
47,
count,
Etheridge Knight,
mathematical poem,
numbers,
prison,
University of Pgh Press

## Tuesday, July 5, 2011

### Mathematicians at work

About her collecton,

This series of poems is loosely based upon the experiences of the mathematicians of the Scottish Café, who lived and worked in Lvov, Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine), a center of Eastern European intellectual life before World War II, close to the area from which my own ancestors emigrated to the United States. A book, known as the

Here is "Fixed Points," the opening poem from Case's collection:

*The Scottish Café*(Slapering Hol Press, 2002), Susan Case offers this note:This series of poems is loosely based upon the experiences of the mathematicians of the Scottish Café, who lived and worked in Lvov, Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine), a center of Eastern European intellectual life before World War II, close to the area from which my own ancestors emigrated to the United States. A book, known as the

*Scottish Book*, was kept in the Café and used to write down some of their problems and solutions. Whoever offered a proof might be awarded a prize.Here is "Fixed Points," the opening poem from Case's collection:

Labels:
chaos,
Euler's formula,
Lvov,
mathematics,
Poland,
problem,
proof,
Scottish Cafe,
solution,
Stanislaw Mazur,
Stefan Banach,
theorem

## Saturday, July 2, 2011

### Mathematicians divide

One of my fine graduate courses at Hunter College was a "World Poetry" course taught by William Pitt Root. One of our texts was

*Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness*(W W Norton, 1993), edited by Carolyn Forché. In this collection is found "To Myself," a poem that confronts fear, by Abba Kovner (1818-1987), a hero of anti-Nazi resistance. Kovner dares to open the poem with the word "Mathematicians."
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