Monday, October 24, 2016

Geometry -- in art and poetry

     St. Louis poet Constance Levy is an acclaimed author of children's poetry -- I found her poem "Madinat as Salam" (included below) in the collection, Heart to Heart, (Edited by Jan Greenberg; Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2001),  a beautifully presented and illustrated anthology of poems inspired by American art.  Enjoy!

Frank Stella.  Madinat as Salam III  1971.  Acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Make Something of Nothing ... with Bob Dylan

     The puzzle of nothing actually being something is central to our use of numbers -- and I use it today as an excuse to link to a Bob Dylan song and celebrate his recent Nobel prize.  Below I offer one (the 3rd, of six) of the stanzas of "Too Much of Nothing" -- followed by a link to the complete lyrics.  (And for those readers seeking other poems of nothing, here is a link to blog poetry from 2011 about division by zero, this link leads to making something of nothing . . .  and this link leads to several nothing links -- it was found via a blog search using the search term "zero.")

from     Too Much of Nothing     by Bob Dylan

          Too much of nothing
          Can make a man abuse a king
          He can walk the streets and boast like most
          But he wouldn’t know a thing
          Now, it’s all been done before
          It’s all been written in the book
          But when there’s too much of nothing
          Nobody should look

Here is a link to the complete lyrics of "Too Much of Nothing."  Enjoy.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Have a Happy "Hamilton Day"

 April 15-23, 2016 is Maths Week in Ireland.
     AND, as this recent Slate article by Katharine Merow announces, in Ireland October 16 is "Hamilton Day" -- named for Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865).  Math-science writer Merow entertainingly describes Hamilton's mathematical contributions and suggests that the holiday be celebrated by more of us than just Ireland. 
     This blog adds some poetry to the celebratory fare -- here is a link (from a 2011 posting) to a poem by Hamilton, himself and this January, 2016 link leads to a sonnet about Hamilton by poet Iggy McGovern.

Friday, October 14, 2016

From order to chaos -- "Fig Tree Rag"

     Robert Dawson, a mathematician and poet from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is wide-ranging in the mathematics that he includes in poetry.  Here is a link to my posting of his "Statistical Lament."  Still others may be found with a SEARCH using the poet's name.
     Dawson's poem below is motivated by chaos and period doublings -- and their patterns -- a complicated system that, under certain conditions approaches a number called Feigenbaum's constant.  (Mitchell Feigenbaum is a mathematical physicist who did pioneering work in chaos theory.   "Feigenbaum" is a German surname meaning "Fig Tree" -- hence the title of the poem.)  Probably you will want to read the poem aloud to get a feel for the rhythmic patterns -- and chaos -- that Dawson has designed for us. 

Fig Tree Rag    (after Scott Joplin)   by Robert Dawson

The music drifts across the room:
from clarinet and saxophone
a sliding stream of melody,
piano chords beneath it, and
upon the cymbal and the snare
the drummer paints a lazy beat
with wire brushes, regular
and cool and uninflected as
a music teacher’s metronome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

She argued for Newton's physics

     Here, by Voltaire, is a poem about mathematician/scientist Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749) -- who explained Newton's physics but was not remembered for her own work as she should have been.  

At this link, one may begin to learn about du Châtelet's many contributions.

       The Divine Émilie      by Voltaire (1694-1778)

       Here's a portrait of my Émilie:
       She's both a beauty and a friend to me.
       Her keen imagination is always in bloom.
       Her noble mind brightens every room.
       She's possessed of charm and wit,
       Though sometimes shows too much of it.
       She has, I assure you, a genius rare.
       With Horace and Newton, she can compare.
       Yet, she will sit for hours and hours
       With people who bore her
       And card-playing gamblers.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Be astonished -- National Poetry Day (British)

Today I celebrate British partnership with Romanian poetry!
     One of the internet treasures I have found is to Contemporary Literature Press, the online publishing house at the University of Bucharest which offers bilingual (Romanian and English) presentations of both classical and contemporary work.  The creators say this about themselves:

The Contemporary Literature Press, under The University of Bucharest,
in conjunction with The British Council, The Romanian Cultural Institute, 
and The Embassy of Ireland.
We publish poetry, fiction, drama and criticism, in the original and in translation, 
whether English or Romanian.
We are a well-fused group of staff and graduate students, 
very enthusiastic about our work.

     This particular link from Contemporary Literature Press celebrates British-Romanian week and includes a poem with a bit of mathematics by Australian-born, London-resident poet Katherine Gallagher; I offer it here and invite you also to visit its Romanian translation.

     Take-Off     by Katherine Gallagher
                 (after a line by Derek Walcott)
     Have you seen the way the day grows
     around you, neither perpendicular
     nor horizontal—  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Generating a sonnet -- human vs computer

     News last month from UC Berkeley's School of Information described a computer that writes poetry. In particular, it writes sonnets.  This article describes in much detail the creation of several sonnet stanzas.  This link offers the winner in Dartmouth's 2016 PoetiX sonnet-generation competition -- in which Berkeley earned a second.  Here, from an article in Slate, is an example of what Berkeley's generator produced:

    Kindred pens my path lies where a flock of
    feast in natures mysteries an adept
    you are my songs my soft skies shine above
    love after my restless eyes I have kept.