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 (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.  
     We shall see first what is meant by
     “thinking” in mathematics,
     and the light that it sheds on both the
     of the human mind.
     And we shall then see what bearing this can have
     on “thinking” in general —
     even, for example, about such matters as Life, Liberty, 
               and the Pursuit of Happiness!

     For we must admit that our “thinking”
     about such things,
     without this aid,
     often leads to much confusion —
     mistaking LICENSE for LIBERTY,
     often resulting in juvenile delinquency;
     mistaking MONEY for HAPPINESS,
     often resulting in adult delinquency;
     mistaking for LIFE itself
     just a sordid struggle for mere existence!
       . . .

Please go to brainpickings to read more  -- about TRUTH and EUCLID and . . . -- and go to your library to find Lieber's entire and wonderful book, Human Values and Science, Art and Mathematics

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