Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Nest of Worlds -- in verse by Margaret Cavendish

     Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) was an English aristocrat, scientist, writer and philosopher.  The following interesting and charming poem by Cavendish I found in A Quark for Mister Mark: 101 Poems about Science, edited by Maurice Riordan and Jon Turney (Faber & Faber, 2000). 

     Of many Worlds in this World    by Margaret Cavendish

     Just like as in a Nest of Boxes round,
     Degrees of Sizes in each Box are found:
     So, in this World, may many others be
     Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
     Although they are not subject to our sense,
     A World may be no bigger than Two-pence.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Bloomsburg Fair -- with theorems and lies . . .

     Along the north branch of the Susquehanna River in east-central Pennsylvania lies the town of Bloomsburg -- known for Bloomsburg University (where I taught math for a bunch of years) and for the Bloomsburg Fair -- an annual celebration that attracts hundreds of thousands of people during each last week of September.  
     I grew up loving fairs -- in my hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, the last week of August brought the Indiana County Fair where we celebrated, with livestock and a carnival, the end of summer vacation.
     More than twenty years ago I gathered some of my Bloomsburg Fair memories in a poem.  The entire poem is found at this link; below I offer a sample of the mathy imagery from the poem.

from   The Bloomsburg Fair      by JoAnne Growney  
. . .
       In front of side-show tents,
       a barker barks his come-on-ins.
       Why don't my students receive theorems
       as willingly as passersby
       accept his lies?
. . .
       If parallels will never meet—
       then here's a man with snakes for hair,
       and there's a woman with three eyes.

      This poem appears in the anthology, COMMON WEALTH: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, Edited by Marjorie Maddox and Jerry Wemple, (2005, PSU Press).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Math-woman, be bold!

     During these days in which discrimination against math-women happens again and again I have wanted to write a poem that celebrates us.  My efforts at traditional verse seemed whining.  Sense left me.  Eventually this came:  

     M ultiply
     A xioms,
     T risect
     H yperbolas,
     W ager
     O rthogonal
     M artingales
     A ll
     N ight  !

Dear reader, please share your own words -- via comments below!

Monday, September 19, 2016

A rumor (in verse) about Alfred Nobel

 Before the poem a bit of history about its source of publication:
     The Humanistic Mathematics Network Newsletter (HMNN) was founded by Alvin White (1925-2009) of Harvey Mudd College in the summer of 1987. The Newsletter was later renamed The Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal (HMNJ). The last issue of the HMNJ was published in 2004 -- and a current, related (online, open-accesss) journal is the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM).  Recently the digital archive of the full run of the HMNN/HMNJ (1987-2004) has become available at this link.
      I was an active participant in HMNJ  -- contributing articles and serving for several years as poetry editor -- and have enjoyed browsing the archives.  One of my articles, "Mathematics and Poetry: Isolated or Integrated" is available here (Issue 6, 1991).   
There's lots more!
     Back in Issue 3 of HMNJ (from 1988) I found these entertaining lines from topologist and math historian William Dunham -- setting to rhyme an an apocryphal tale of why there is no Nobel prize in mathematics.

       For Whom Nobel Tolls    by William Dunham  

       It is well-known that Nobel Prizes
       Come in many shapes and sizes.
       But one is missing from the list --
       The Nobel Math Prize does not exist.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Keyboard characters make a poem . . .

     Here's poem found in an old email from my Bloomsburg friend, Janice B.  Its authors turn out to be Fred Bremmer and Steve Kroese and they penned it around 1990, using computer keyboard characters, during their student days at Calvin College.  Enjoy!

< > ! * ' ' #         read as   Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash
^ " ` $ $ -                  Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash
! * = @ $ _                  Bang splat equal at dollar underscore
% * < > ~ # 4               Percent splat waka waka tilde number 4
& [ ] . . /                   Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash
| { , , SYSTEM HALTED     Vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma CRASH.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Fib (a perfect circle) -- and some math-po links

    1      Not 
    1      one 
    2      circle
    3      is perfect
    5      yet the idea
    8      of circle's useful every day.

The beauty of images and the ideas they represent is central in both mathematics and poetry.  A wonderful resource for works that join these two is the literary website TalkingWriting,com -- whose poetry editor is Carol Dorf, also a math teacher.  Here is a link to a wonderful TW essay from a few years back, "Math Girl Fights Back" by Karen J Ohlson.  This article by Dorf, "Why Poets Sometimes think in Numbers,"  introduces a 2012 collection of mathy poems.  Another collection was posted in the Spring 2016 issue.  In addition, at the TalkingWriting website, you can enter the search term "math" -- as I did -- and be offered 5 pages of links to consider. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Division by Zero

     At Victoria University in Melbourne, novelist, playwright and poet Tom Petsinis also teaches mathematics.  He participated in the 2016 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Finland this summer:  here are two of his poems from the 2016 Bridges Poetry Anthology -- and each of them plays with mathematical ideas in new and thoughtful (sometimes amusing) ways.   "Zeno's Paradox" follows this initial poem(Names and links for other anthology poets are given below.)

     Division by Zero     by Tom Petsinis

     She could’ve been our grandmother
     Warning us of poisonous mushrooms ‒
     To stress her point she'd scratch
     The taboo bold with crimson chalk.
     It should never be used to divide,
     Or we'd be howled from lined yard
     To pit where cruel paradoxes ruled.
     Her warnings tempted us even more:
     Young, growing full in confidence,
     We’d prove the impossible for fun ‒
     Nothing she said could restrain us
     From showing two is equal to one.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A counting rhyme, a riddle

     During the summer I had lots of activities with grandchildren -- they all love to read and one of the books we enjoyed together was Counting Rhymes (selected by Shona McKellar, a Dorling Kindersley book, 1993).  Here are a rhyme and a riddle from that collection.

Let's Send a Rocket     by Kit Patrickson

TEN, NINE, EIGHT,                                 We're counting each second,
SEVEN, SIX, FIVE . . .                             And soon it will boom!

We'll send up a rocket,                         Get ready for . . . TWO;
And it will be LIVE .                              Get ready to go . . .
FIVE, FOUR, THREE . . .                          It's TWO--and it's--ONE!  
It's ready to zoom!                                We're OFF!  It's ZERO!

                                    RIDDLE -- What animal do these clues describe?
                                    Four stiff-standers,
                                    Four dilly-danders,
                                    Two lookers,
                                    Two crookers,
                                    And a wig-wag.