Friday, January 31, 2014

On shoulders of giants . . .

     Washington, DC is a city rich with both poetry and mathematics.  Last Tuesday evening I attended a Mathematical Association of America (MAA) lecture by author and math historian William Dunham (whom I knew when he taught for a bunch of years at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg College, in Eastern Pennsylvania, not so far from my employer, Bloomsburg University).  Dunham spoke of insights gained by many hours reading the correspondence of British mathematician and scientist, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727).  The discoverer of "gravity,"  and, moreover, both a genius and a disagreeable man.  Still, Newton was a man who gave a nod to his predecessors, "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Little Boxes

It is hard to know what to say.
Pete Seeger died yesterday at age 94.  
94 = 2 x 47.  47 is prime.
Here is a link to Pete singing "Little Boxes."
Song lyrics are poems.

Graffiti Calculus

     In my dreams I am an artist -- a cartoonist, perhaps, or a graffiti artist -- so skilled with lines and curves and so clever that my art gives pleasure AND delivers a punch.
     And so I am gratefully into the math-art connections provoked by a new book by Mary-Sherman Willis -- aptly titled Graffiti Calculus (CW Books, 2013).  I first met Willis in December, at Cafe Muse (where I will read next Monday, Feb 3 with Stephanie Strickland) and it was my pleasure also to hear her read again from that collection at the Joint Mathematics Meetings.  These poems by Willis give us, in sixty poetic chapters, the story of a mother seeking her son by following his graffiti tags through the city.  Here is a sample, sections 5 and 6: 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mathematics is like . . .

For angling may be said to be so like the mathematics,
that it can never be fully learnt; at least not so fully, 
but that there will still be more new experiments left 
for the trial of other men that succeed us.  

 Izaak Walton (1594-1683), The Compleat Angler (1653-1676)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Extraneous -- and so on

     Since my junior high math days, when I first heard the word "extraneous," I have loved the sound of it, the feel of my mouth when I say it, the mystery of how solving an equation can lead to extra solutions.   And then learning to check found-solutions to see if they were true solutions -- a process that has been multiply useful to me far afield from mathematics.
     My love for this math-word drew me quickly to the title of a poem by Alex Walsh, a high school student from Oberlin, Ohio, who presented her work at the poetry-with-math reading at JMM in Baltimore last Friday.   Here are her poems "Convergence" and "The Extraneous Solution" :

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Word problems

       Scarcity:  Why Having Too Little Means So Much (a Times book by S. Mullainathan and E. Shafir, released last September) considers not only the facts but the feelings of scarcity and finds similarities between those those with too little time and those with too little money.  The authors report, further, that persons experiencing scarcity do not have the luxury of doing well in their studies -- of mathematics or poetry -- because the scarcity demands their first attention.
       And  . . . this connection between external environment and a student's learning brings me to a poem by Dian Sousa, a poem that gives us some things to think about.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Poems and primes

Friday morning, 1-17-2014, looking north from the Baltimore Convention Center

       This past week I enjoyed Thursday and Friday at the Joint Mathematics Meetings at the Convention Center in Baltimore, a time for connecting with some old friends and making some new ones.  I gave a presentation in one of the sessions on the Intersection of Mathematics and the Arts, sharing poems -- such as Sherman Stein's "Mathematician" -- that can help non-maths to understand more clearly the nature of mathematics.  The handout for my talk contained a list of more than thirty poems that can help to communicate the nature of mathematics and it is available for download here

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Poetry-with-math, Jan 17, Baltimore

Please join us!
 A Reading of Poetry with Mathematics
  Friday,  January 17, 2014   4:30 - 6:30 PM
 Room 308  Baltimore Convention Center 
At the national Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore, the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics is sponsoring a poetry reading.  Following participation by these poets,who have submitted work in advance, there will be an open reading in which interested audience members will be invited to share their math-related poems.  Participating poets include: Gizem Karaali, Katharine Merow, Karen Morgan Ivy, Mary-Sherman Willis, Alex Walsh, Ted Theodosopoulos, Stephanie Strickland, Myra Sklarew, JoAnne Growney, E. Laura Golberg, Sandra DeLozier Coleman, Rosanna Iembo, and Irene Iaccarino (musician).
Sunrise gives
each  of  us
a shadow.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Writing mathy poems - a student activity

On the web-page of mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz I found a link to this file of math-related poems that she prompted students to write when she visited an Arcadia University class session of "Truth and Beauty:  A Course in Mathematics and Literature" taught by mathematician-poet Marion Cohen.  The writing was prompted by an activity-list developed by mathematician-poet Carol Dorf.  Poems by Whitney Boeckel and Olivia Lantz particularly caught my eye and, with their permission, I present them here:

Friday, January 10, 2014

The discipline of mathematics

This poem remembers one of my students.

       The Prince of Algebra      by JoAnne Growney

       Madam Professor,
       let me introduce myself.
       I'm Albert James,
       whom you may know
       by my test score
       that's lower than my age.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Martin Gardner, again

     This past weekend a review by Teller (magician of the Penn & Teller team) of an autobiography of Martin Gardner appeared in the NYTimes Book Review.  According to Teller, Gardner (1914-2010) wrote the memoir, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus:  The Autobiography of Martin Gardner, at the age of 95 on an old electric typewriter in his single-room assisted-living apartment in Norman, Oklahoma.    

Friday, January 3, 2014

Count what counts

When I visited Iceland last month, I looked in the bookstores of Reykjavik for bilingual (Icelandic-English) poetry collections; I found none. I did, however, acquire a copy of  The Sayings of the Vikings (Gudrun Publishing, 1992), a translation by Bjorn Jonasson of Hávamál -- "sayings of the high one" -- from the Poetic Edda, a collection of Old Norse poems from the Viking era and attributed to Odin.  Here are several samples that involve number or measurement:

     The Nature of  Hospitality

     I would be invited
     if I needn't eat at all. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 (and prior) -- titles, dates of posts

Scroll down to find dates and titles (with links) of posts in 2013.  At the bottom are links to posts through 2012 and 2011 -- and all the way back to March 2010 when this blog was begun.   This link leads to a PDF file that lists searchable topics and names of poets and mathematicians presented herein.

Dec 30  Error Message Haiku
Dec 26  The angel of numbers . . .
Dec 23  Ah, you are a mathematician
Dec 20  Measuring Winter