Saturday, April 5, 2014

Logic in limericks

In these lines, Sandra DeLozier Coleman (who participated in the math-poetry reading at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore in January) speaks as a professor reasoning in rhyme, explaining truth-value technicalities of the logical implication, "If p then q" (or, in notation, p -- > q ).

     The Implications of Logic     by Sandra DeLozier Coleman

     That p --> q is true,
     Doesn’t say very much about q.
     For if p should be false,
     Then there’s really no loss
     In assuming that q could be, too.  

     On the other hand q could be true.
     So, what is a body to do?
     With a false antecedent,
     The consequent needn’t
     Be something one lends credence to!

     If the whole statement’s false, then, my dear,
     There is no ambiguity here!
     For then p must be true,
     But then not so for q.
     I do hope that’s all perfectly clear!

This professorial voice that Coleman sometimes inhabits also may be found here in another poem -- this one in Evelyn Lamb's Scientific American blog, "Roots of Unity" --  a poem that explains the abstract algebraic concept of "group."  Implications, alternatively termed "conditionals," are explored also in this post -- which contains poems by Romanian poet Marin Sorescu and me.

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