Monday, September 28, 2015

A subtraction problem

Let's solve this subtraction problem:

                    Women do the job
            minus   the recognition.    

      The "found poem" above is from a headline for an article by Petula Dvorak in the Washington Post on 21 August 2015.  Dvorak's full headline was a bit longer, "Women do the job minus the training and recognition."  (Indeed Dvorak's article portrays the military as an even more difficult environment for women than the STEM fields.)
       Also found in the Post (this past weekend) an enthusiastic review by Marcia Bartusiak of Eileen Pollack's The Only Woman In the Room:  Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club.  Another problem to solve!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

C K Williams -- Three Mile Island

A poet whose work I have long enjoyed, C K Williams  (1936-1915), died a few days ago.  (You may find a generous sample of his poems online -- for example at and  Williams is a poet whose writing does not tend toward mathematics but his very fine poem "Tar" (about the Three Mile Island nuclear plant crisis of 1979, a year when I lived in Pennsylvania not far away) has a few numbers.  I present below the first stanza of  "Tar" and, beneath it, a link to the rest of the poem.

from   Tar        by C. K. Williams

The first morning of Three Mile Island: those first disquieting, 
       uncertain, mystifying hours.    

Monday, September 21, 2015

Choosing what words mean . . .

     Nineteenth century writer and mathematician Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) gave his character, Humpty Dumpty, these words:  "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."  And so it is in mathematics -- where, for example, the term "rational" (used in the poem"The Disposition of Art," shown below) has a precise meaning that differs from its typical conversational usage.
     The photo below shows computer-generated art by Silver Spring artist Allen Hirsh -- and, beside it, a framed version of the poem mentioned above.  Our work was exhibited together at last summer's BRIDGES and MAA conferences.  A clearer presentation of Hirsh's art -- "An Outgrabed Mome Rath" -- is available here.  My poem is presented below, beneath the photo.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

Words of Ada Lovelace

These poetic words of Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) -- concerning translation of mathematical principles into practical forms -- I found here:

Those who view mathematical science,
not merely as a vast body
of abstract and immutable truths,
whose intrinsic beauty, symmetry and logical completeness,
when regarded in their connexion together as a whole,
entitle them to a prominent place 
in the interest of all profound and logical minds,  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shaping sentences with Fibonacci numbers . . .

Counting words . . ..  

     1                One
     1               person
     2               with courage
     3               makes a majority.               Andrew Jackson (updated)

Counting syllables . . .

     1               Life
     1               is
     2               painting
     3               a picture
     5               not doing a sum.                    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Songs of mathematics . . .

     Larry Lesser is a songwriter who uses lyrics for teaching as well as entertainment.  A varied sample of his creations for doing this are presented in his article "Mathematical lyrics;  noteworthy endeavours in education" found in the "Poetry and Mathematics / Special Issue" of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, March-June 2014).
     One of the article's enchanting items is a song for children -- "Circle Song" -- which Lesser has written to the familiar tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"; this lyric offers a way to remember critical formulas for a circle.

Circle Song     by Lawrence Mark Lesser

Take your finger 'round the jar:
Circumf'rence equals 2πr!  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It starts with counting . . .

Mathematical imagery is one of the many features I enjoy in the work of Canadian environmental scientist and poet Madhur Anand.  Here is a sample from her new collection (A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes).
Background:  In an experiment designed to test the truth of a given statement 
(often called the null hypothesis), a Type I error occurs if the experiment results in a true hypothesis 
being rejected (a "false positive") and a Type II error occurs if a false hypothesis is accepted. 

Type One Error     by Madhur Anand

I avoid news, talk to strangers, walk around the block
a thousand times and toss nickels for random samples.
I still get a few false positives.  I'm fine.  It's good. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mathematical Modeling

My friend and colleague, University of Connecticut mathematician Sarah Glaz, is an accomplished poet and is active in coordinating math-poetry activities -- via her website, the annual BRIDGES Conference, the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics . . . .  Here is one of her mathy poems -- this one a pantoum, first published in London Grip.

Mathematical Modelling     by Sarah Glaz

Mathematical modelling may be viewed
As an organizing principle
That enables us to handle
A vast array of information