Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Perfect Number

     One of the the things I love to find in a poem is the surprise of a double meaning -- especially involving a mathematical term such as "group" or "zero" or "identity."  The following poem of mine aims to offer that surprise -- as it celebrates actor-inventor Hedy Lamarr while playing with the meanings of "perfect."

Looking for Mathematics in Hedy Lamarr

All my six husbands married me for different reasons.
                               ---Hedy Lamarr

Perhaps Hedy Lamarr married so often because six
is a perfect number – the sum of all its proper
divisors, “proper” meaning “less than six,”
“divisor” meaning “a counting number
that divides and leaves
no remainder.”

After a perfect number of husbands, there is no
remainder. Six is the smallest perfect
number, the next is twenty-eight.
And twenty-eight
is too many

Today I head to the 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore
including a Poetry Reading Friday, January 18, 7 PM
 -- hope to see you there!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Poems that Celebrate Mathematicians

     Recently I received from John Golden (blogger at and math professor at Michigan's Grand Valley State Universitythis link to a collection of poems developed by students Ellen Audia and Connor Dudas as their senior project for degrees in Mathematics from Grand Valley State University.   On page 6, we have their poem about Archimedes:


Everyone knows
The great Archimedes
One of the leading scientists
Of the classical antiquity

The area of a circle
Equals pi r squared
Archimedes also discovered
The volume of a sphere  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mathematical motherhood -- keeping count

     The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, with new issues coming twice a year, late in January and July, is a wonderful resource.  Their latest issue (July 2018) was themed "Mathematics and Motherhood" and is an example of their wonderful support for expanding our images of mathematicians to recognize the vital contributions of women.
     From that issue, here are opening stanzas of  a poem by Nevada scientist and mathematician Marylesa Howard -- lines that offer a mathematical description of the constant adjustments of parenthood.   Several decades ago, when I was a math professor and parent of young children, I needed to keep details of parenting away from my profession -- a divided life.  I'm glad things are different now.

Friday, January 4, 2019

A poem . . . like a mathematical proof . . .

     Mathematician-Poet Sarah Glaz has been active in bringing poetry events to the annual summer Math-Arts conference Bridges -- and she has given me permission to include this poem which appears in the Bridges 2018 Poetry Anthology and in her wonderful recent collection Ode to Numbers  (Antrim House, 2017)

      Like a Mathematical Proof     by Sarah Glaz

       A poem courses through me
       like a mathematical proof,
       arriving whole from nowhere,
       from a distant galaxy of thought.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Celebrate a Science Woman -- and offer friendship!

      Last weekend's Washington Post used the headline 
  Astronomer celebrated as the 'mother' of the Hubble Space Telescope  
for the obituary of Nancy Grace Roman.  It opens with this sentence:

               When Nancy Grace Roman requested permission
               to take a second algebra course in high school,
               the teacher demanded to know, "what lady
               would take mathematics instead of Latin?"

But Roman persisted in the challenging studies and was not dissuaded by biases.  The obituary quotes an interview from Science magazine in which she said: