Monday, February 19, 2018

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of ... Mathematics

     One of my favorite mathy authors is Lillian R. Lieber (1886-1986) and one of the websites that has recently featured her work is the energetic and eclectic brainpickings.org (authored by Maria Popova) -- in a posting recommended to me by my Bloomsburg, PA poetry-friend Carol Ann Heckman.  Carol alerted me to a January 2018 brainpickings posting about Lieber -- a writer whose poetic treatise, Infinity: Beyond the Beyond the Beyond (Paul Dry Books, 2007) is a reading I once recommended to her as an aid in understanding calculus.  Originally published in 1953 and illustrated with striking drawings by Lillian's collaborating husband, Hugh Lieber, Infinity also had enriched my own understanding of some challenging concepts.  The Heckman-recommended posting offers ideas from an out-of-print gem by Lieber entitled Human Values and Science, Art and Mathematics -- and here are a few opening lines from that collection that seem very relevant today:
   
     This book is really about
     Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,
     using ideas from mathematics
     to make these concepts less vague.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sonnet for Bolyai -- and translations

     The Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai (1802 – 1860) was one of the discoverers of non-Euclidean geometry — an axiomatization  that differs from Euclid's geometry in its stipulations concerning parallel lines. This discovery of  an alternative view of space -- that also was logically consistent -- helped to free mathematicians to explore new ideas, and the consequences developed by Einstein and others have led to far-reaching results.
     Hungarian poet Mihály Babits (1883-1941) wrote a sonnet about Bolyai.  I learned of this sonnet and its English translation (by Paul Sohar and offered below) from Osmo Pekonen, a Finnish mathematician who is engaged in the project of collecting translations of Babits' sonnet into as many languages as possible.  (The original Hungarian version -- along with a Spanish translation -- is available here.) 

     Bolyai      by Mihály Babits              translation into English by Paul Sohar

     God had imprisoned our minds in space.
     Those puny things have remained prisoners.
     Thought, the hungry bird of prey fought the curse,
     but never breached its diamond bars' embrace.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day -- I love SEVEN!

Happy Valentine's Day!
                     I love seven –  as  a 
                                                          five-
                                                        letter
     word
    or
  as
            an                    
                                            acute     
                                        angle.

     Not only is seven prime, it is the number
     of my granddaughters who all like math --
     I want to make a mountain to celebrate 
     the girls and the women they become . . .  

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Matrix Poem, "RESIST"

     My first awareness of the term "matrix" was in a math class -- where it means a rectangular array of quantities that are treated as a single unified object.  But my online dictionary does not list that definition first; a Google Search using "matrix definition" led me to "an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure."  And so it goes.
     And when I enter the pair "matrix" and "poem" into a Google Search, the results include poems with the word "matrix" in the title AND rectangular arrays including this one from  Eleven Matrix Poems by Roy Lisker and found at this source. Reading instruction includes this: 
       Matrix poems are written to be read in all of the directions 
indicated by their accompanying diagrams.
"RESIST" by Roy Lisker
My favorite line is shown as the second column; which is yours? 
Fight    Ever    Will To    Never    Evade
     In closing, one more remark about the Google Search I performed using "matrix poem"; as with many Google searches there was a link to images, and from that I found a delightful array of word-diagrams such as the one above.  Try it sometime!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Find a Mathy Valentine!

As the 2018 version of Valentine's Day draws near, I urge you to visit past postings to sample the variety contained in my years of collecting -- if you are looking for Mathy Valentines:

 do a blog Search using Valentine

      Two of the poems in the anthology that Sarah Glaz and I edited -- Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008)  -- have the title "Valentine."  Here is the final line of the one by Katharine O'Brien:

         . . . won't you be my cardioid?

and the final pair of lines of Michael Stueben's verse:

       I love you as one over x,
       as x approaches zero.

Sending my wishes a week ahead of time, Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Math-poetry for Black History Month

     Recently I have revisited my post (from October 2, 2012) that offers a puzzle poem by math-science guy Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), "The Puzzle of the Hound and the Hare" and available here.   
     This link leads to several more posts that also offer mathy poems linked to African-American history and culture.  And here, below, is a treasure to enjoy in any month:

     Addition     by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

     7 x 7 + love =
     An amount
     Infinitely above:
     7 x 7 − love.

Hughes' poem "Addition" is found in the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me and first posted in this blog, along with other poems celebrating to Black History Month, on February 20, 2011.