Friday, March 30, 2018

Celebrate life -- BILLIONS of heartbeats

     I've been thinking a lot about last weekend's March for Our Lives and now it is the Easter weekend -- and these events have led me also to think about  the heart and to reflect on this poem by Pennsylvania poet Gary Fincke entitled "The Billion Heartbeats of the Mammal."

The Billion Heartbeats of the Mammal     by Gary Fincke 

     Feel this," my father says, guiding my hand
     To the simple braille of his pacemaker.
     "Sixty," he tells me, "over and over
     Like a clock," and I mention the billion
     heartbeats of the mammal, how the lifespan
     Can be rough-guessed by the 800 beats
     Per minute of the shrew, the 200
     Of the house cat, speeding through their billion
     In three years, in twelve. How slowly we act,
     According to our pets. How we are stone   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mathematical cycles of life

    After participating last Saturday in Washington, DC's "March for Our Lives" my head has been full of numbers related to gun violence.  Stepping away from those to other numbers, I have re-found and enjoyed this poem by Spanish poet Elena Soto

     The cicadas of mathematical cycles     by Elena Soto

     Sheltered by the prime numbers,
     the nymphs of the periodic cicadas
     descend to the underworld.
     Their cycles -- 
     only divisible by one and by themselves --
     avoid death.
     Magicicada septendecim and Magicicada tredecim
     enter the veil of the earth looking for tender plants.
     They gather for oblivion and life
     and thus conclude the circle of chaos.
     And the legend says that they never return
     because their blood becomes chlorophyll
     and they are forever subjected to
     the ancient cycle of plant constellations.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Happy Birthday -- Emmy Noether!

Born March 23, 1882. Amalie Emmy Noether (1882-1935) was an outstanding mathematician.  Three years ago GOOGLE celebrated her birthday.  At this link is a poem I wrote about her.  And for more about her and other math-women, go to this article in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Skinny poetry -- 11 lines, most with just 1 word . . .

     Last weekend at a DC poetry gathering I had the opportunity to hear poet Truth Thomas speak about the "Skinny" -- a poetry form that he created at Howard University in 2005.  More about Thomas and The Skinny Poetry Journal may be found here.

            A Skinny is a short poem form that consists of eleven lines. 
            The first and eleventh lines can be any length (although shorter lines are favored). 
            The eleventh and last line must be repeated using the same words 
                     from the first and opening line (however, they can be rearranged). 
            The second, sixth, and tenth lines must be identical. 
            All the lines in this form, except for the first and last lines, must contain ONLY ONE word. 

Since learning of the Skinny, I've wanted to write one.  Here's a try:

               Math women count
               math women count

The Skinny Poetry Journal invites submissions.  More information here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Math and poetry -- shout out the connection!

    Recently I came across a fun-to-read posting here in the blog "math for grownups" about connections between math and poetry -- blogger Laura Laing is a freelance writer who was a math major  (here is her personal webpage) and she offers strongly positive remarks about poetry and math and women and    . .
    Following the theme of positive connections, I offer a sample of work by Theoni Pappas, taken from a recently-republished collection math talk:  mathematical ideas in poems for two voices (Wide World Publishing, 2014).  Here are the opening lines of the first poem of the collection -- it is fittingly entitled "Mathematics."  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Math-minorities -- stories needing to be shouted

     One of my favorite Facebook communities is Women in Maths -- a group energized by Susanne Pumpluen at the University of Nottingham and a site that consistently offers must-read items concerning math-women.  One of the important blogs on my reading list is the American Mathematical Society Blog, inclusion/exclusion -- a diverse group of bloggers, headed by Adriana Salerno that discuss issues pertaining to marginalized and underrepresented groups in mathematics.  A February posting by Piper Harron focuses attention on the question "What does it feel like not to belong?" -- treating exclusion issues with important frankness.  As someone who felt uncomfortable without speaking out about it, I admire Harron's expression of her views.

     For a poetic comment on this situation I turn to the final stanza of a poem of mine about Emmy Noether, a verse that illustrates the oft-repeated habit of praise that actually is a put-down. 

               Today, history books proclaim that Noether
               is the greatest mathematician
               her sex has produced. They say she was good
               for a woman. 

Readers interested in reading a bit more are invited to visit my 2017 article in the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, "They Say She Was Good for a Woman:  Poetry and Musings."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Celebrate Pi-Day with a message in Pilish

      As you may already know, when we write in Pilish, our word-lengths follow the pattern of the digits of pi.  For example, here is a link to posting that offers a poem in Pilish by Mike Keith.  Here is a small Pilish verse of my own:

Twenty-six words of Pilish . . .

Here is a link to a host of earlier postings in this blog about Pi.

And, for Pi-Day or any day . . ..a book I found online recently that looks like a great STEAM resource for K-12 teachers is Strategies that Integrate the Arts in Mathematics (Shell Education, 2015) by Linda Dacey and Lisa Donovan.  This listing enables viewers to look inside.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Philippa Fawcett -- Talented and Overlooked

 Celebrate MATH-WOMEN by writing POEMS about them! 

     I want to shout out a THANK YOU to Larry Riddle of Agnes Scott College for his website, "Biographies of Women Mathematicians" -- around two-hundred women are portrayed there.  One of these is Philippa Fawcett (1868-1946) in an article that opens with these words:

    Became, in 1890, the first woman to score the highest mark 
      of all the candidates for the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge University. 
         Women at that time were not eligible for a Cambridge BA degree, however. 

A Wikipedia article quotes one of her students at Newnham College, Cambridge:

   “What I remember most vividly of Miss Fawcett's coaching was
        her concentration, speed, and infectious delight in what she was teaching ... "   

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Linking mathematics to the rest . . .

Today my obtuse anger is rightly directed toward G. H. Hardy (1877-1947) and to the followers who have accepted his view --  in his 1940 treatise, A Mathematician's Apology -- that explaining and appreciating mathematics is work for second-rate minds.  Despite his worthy achievements in number theory and analysis and his nurturing of Ramanujan, Hardy's words should not stand forth and belittle those who teach and explain and forge connections between mathematics and all the rest.
     An wonderful and ongoing source of integration of mathematics with the arts is the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics -- and I invite you to go to the current issue and browse there OR go to this link for more than thirty pages of mathematical Haiku.