Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Following Euler in Koenigsberg

     The Köenigsberg Bridges have an important link to mathematics -- for mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) took a legendary Köenigsberg puzzle-pastime as the seed for development of a new branch of mathematics, graph theory (which is now generally included under the umbrella of combinatorics).  As the story goes, Köenigsberg residents made a Sunday recreation of trying to tour their city, crossing each of its seven bridges exactly once.  This problem is perhaps particularly fascinating because of its impossibility -- a dilemma cause by the existence of odd (rather than even) numbers of bridges between the parts of this water-separated city.
     Poet Paula Bonnell has a fine poem, "In Köenigsberg," that returns the problem of crossing bridges to a personal realm; while framed by the city-tour puzzle, it reminds us that perhaps what was important to those long ago Sunday strollers was not a math problem but love.  (Bonnell's poem is found online here and in print, published by BkMk Press, in Airs and Voices.)
     This blog's posting for 27 May 2011 also offers a Königsberg Bridge poem.
     Remember that April celebrates both poetry and mathematics.   A posting of Mathematics Awareness Month activities may be found here.  And check out other poetry conversations happening this National Poetry Month at Couplets where poet and blogger Joanne Merriam is featuring a guided tour of a variety of poetry blogs.

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