Friday, January 30, 2015

Twined Arcs, Defying Euclid

     The English language has adopted into current usage many terms from other languages.  French terms like coup de grace and haut monde have for many years been found in English dictionaries.  Recently, computer terms such as bite and captcha and google have achieved widespread use.  In addition, those of us who are fluent in the language of mathematics find that its terms sometimes offer a concise best way to describe a non-mathematical phenomenon.
     Mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz weaves mathematical terms into her poem, "Departures in May" -- a poem that uses the language of geometry to vivify the presence of loss, death and other dark forces.

       Departures in May     by Sarah Glaz

       Big things crush, inside the brain,
       like plaster of Paris on stone;
       a taste of splintered metal;
       terra-cotta hardness of heart's desire.
       Statues motionless
       at railroad depots,
       proclaim imitation as life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Poetry-math images; Expectation

     Search engines are very useful in my search for mathy poets and poems.  Recently I have noticed that a link to images  has been offered prior to the verbal links when I have queried Google using "mathematics poetry."  Some of the visuals are quotations, some are book-covers, some are poems.  When you have time, explore and enjoy! 
     Finding more via Google that I expected connected me with an old poem.  Here, unearthed recently, is "Expectation"  -- some lines from the 1980s, when I was beginning to write poems.

Don't let mathematics                Don't let mathematics
teach you to expect two              teach you to expect one
to be more than one.                 to be the sum of its parts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Girls who like math

Often I think about the interactions of girls with mathematics and recently I have been feeling delighted that all of my school-age granddaughters like math. In fact, Harvey Mudd mathematician Rachel Levy has included views from these girls (and from me) here in her blog, "Grandma Got STEM."

T h i s
g i r l
d o e s
m a t h

S u m
f o r
f u n

s o
 i f 


To read selections from several of my favorite poems about girls-in-math (including Sharon Olds' poem "The One Girl at the Boys' Party" and Kyoko Mori's poem, "Barbie Says Math is Hard") follow this link to a posting made on 10 June 2010.  Another math-girls post was back on  26 December 2010.  Or use the SEARCH box (upper right) to find poems related to your own choice of topics.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Probability and Coincidence

     On page 26 of my copy of the latest New Yorker is a poem by Lia Purpura entitled "Probability."  In her brief poem Purpura renders with poetic power the astonishment each of us feels when meeting a long-ago classmate at an out-of-town super market or some other unexpected event.  Take time to follow the link and read this poem.
     Recently several friends have shared with me their amazement at unexpected coincidences and I have been tempted to illustrate -- perhaps with the birthday paradox --  how likely to happen unexpected events may be.

  With more than 23 persons in a room the chances are more than 50-50
 that two of them will share a birthday (same day, maybe different years).
Many websites offer explanation of this "birthday paradox" -- here is one.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

To add two and two

     Today I call attention again (as in my post for 6 January, 2015) to the extensive  Science-Poetry collection edited by Norman Hugh Redington and Karen Rae Keck. Mathy (rather than bawdy) limericks are featured in the collection; for example, this one by an unknown author:

       There was an old man who said, "Do
       Tell me how I'm to add two and two?
            I'm not very sure
            That it doesn't make four --
       But I fear that is almost too few."  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Opposites, Balance

     Recently, and perhaps always, opposites have interested me.  For example, the complementary and sometimes  conflicting nuggets of advice contained in "Pinch a penny, waste a pound" and "It is best to prepare for the days of necessity."   And in  "Kindness effects more than severity" and "Spare the rod, spoil the child."   Maybe what I like best is the challenge of synthesizing opposite truths.
     Mathematics contains many pairs of entities that are, each in some different sense, opposites:
2 and -2      2 and 1/2
horizontal and vertical   differentiation and integration
And there are some arbitrary subdivisions that often are treated as if they are disconnected opposites:
pure vs. applied (creating mathematics vs. solving problems)
teaching and learning, creating vs. teaching, arts and sciences

In an ideal world, opposites exist with "Balance" -- which is the title of the following lovely and contemplative poem by Adam Zagajewski :

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Geometry of Winter, with Eagles

A poetry-listening opportunity in the Washington, DC area:
Poet Martin Dickinson will read from his new collection, My Concept of Time
on Sunday, January 11 at Arlington's Iota Cafe

AND -- if you 're San Antonio on January 11, 2015 you'll want to attend  
the 5:30 PM poetry-with-math reading (details here
at the Gonzales Convention Center, sponsored by JHM.
From My Concept of Time, here's a poem of the geometry of our winter world.

          Fourteen Eagles, Winter     by Martin Dickinson
                                  for Phyllis

          We spot them, first almost imaginary
          thin pencil lines or scratches on our glasses.

          The earth's disk flattens out

          where this pale land becomes the bay, 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

from MIT Science-Poetry -- The Cal-Dif-Fluk Saga

     Recently I have enjoyed browsing a voluminous online 19th century Science-Poetry collection (Watchers of the Moon) hosted by MIT, gathered and edited by Norman Hugh Redington and Karen Rae Keck. Google led me to the site in a search for " poetry of calculus" and I found there found a fascinating item by J. M. Child The Cal-Dif-Fluk Saga (from The Monist: A Quarterly Magazine Devoted to the Philosophy of Science -- Open Court Publishing, 1917) and described as "a  pseudo-epic about the invention of calculus."  
     Child was a translator (from Latin into English) of the works of Isaac Barrow and Gottfried Leibniz and his poem presents the names of well-known mathematicians in clever scrambles:  Isa-Tonu is Newton, Zin-Bli is Leibniz, Isa-Roba is Barrow, Gen-Tan-Agg stands for Barrow's Gen-eral method of Tan-gents and of Agg-regates while Shun-Fluk and Cal-Dof refer to the methods of Newton and Leibniz.  One may, with a fair amount of work, enjoy this dramatization of warriors and weapons -- battles that were part of the development of calculus.  Here from the middle of the Saga (from Section 6 (of 17)), is a sample of Child's lines illustrating the struggles that calculus required.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Role of Zero

     In mathematics, as in poetry, multiple meanings are common and create power for the language.   For example, the number 0 is an idempotent element, an additive identity, a multiplicative annihilator -- and it also plays the role of something that may represent nothing.
     In Dorothea Tanning's poem below -- I found it at -- zero takes on still another of its roles, that of place-holder -- as in the numbers 101 and 5000, for example.

       Zero     by Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)

       Now that legal tender has
                    lost its tenderness,
       and its very legality
               is so often in question.
       it may be time to consider
       the zero--
                    long rows of them.
            empty, black circles in clumps
                              of three, 

2014 (and prior) -- titles, dates of posts

Scroll down to find titles and dates of posts in 2014.  At the bottom are links to lists of posts through 2013 and 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  Be someone TO COUNT ON in 2015
Dec 28  A Fractal Poem
Dec 25  A thousand Christmas trees
Dec 24  The gift of a poem
Dec 20  The Girl Who Loved Triangles