Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Solving for X, Searching for LIFE

     In January of this year I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading featuring Linda Pastan and Le Hinton -- Linda Pastan's mathy poem "Algebra" is posted here and a blog SEARCH using her name can find other gems.  Pennsylvania poet Le Hinton's poem, "Baseball," appears in a 2015 posting at this link and below I offer his "Solving for X."

Solving for X     by Le Hinton

Because your father was a teacher,
he set up a blackboard to teach you math.

You were four, almost five, learning the difference
between more and less.  How to add.  When to subtract.  How
to savor a piece of candy when you got an answer exactly right.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Stories of Black Mathematicians (event postponed)

     Dr. Scott Williams is a mathematician, poet, and artist blacksmith and, alas, illness will prevent him from being the featured speaker at the MAA Carriage House on Tuesday, February 26Rescheduling is planned!
     Most of Dr. Williams' career was spent as a research mathematician at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo. His interest in other black mathematicians led him to create the important website Mathematicians of the African Diaspora.”   One of my favorites of his poems ("The Nine-Sided Diamond,")  is dedicated to his mother -- who also was a mathematician.
     Dr. Williams' poem, "An 1883 Faery Tale" (about the construction of the Cantor set) recently appeared in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (January 2019 issue) and he has given me permission also to include it here: 

An 1883 Faery Tale     by Scott W. Williams

Once there was a king whose daughter was beautiful.
He loved her very deeply and he wished to have more.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

All Numbers are Interesting . . .

     For math poetry and math art and a host of enticements to love math if you don't already, I recommend a visit to Grant Sanderson's website 3blue1brown.   Here are the opening stanzas of one of his fascinating poems:

       Moser's Circle Problem

       Take two points on a circle,
       and draw a line straight through.
       The space that was encircled
       is divided into two.

       To these points add a third one,
       which gives us two more chords.
       The space through which these lines run
       has been fissured into four.
           . . .
And here is a link to "All Numbers are Interesting."

Monday, February 18, 2019

George Washington, cherry tree, lifespan . . .

     Today in the US we celebrate Presidents' Day -- including the birthday of George Washington (on February 22, 1732).  In the 1970s, telling stories to my young children, I became fascinated by the allegations that the story of George Washington's admission that he cut down a cherry tree was a story invented after our first President's death (in 1799).  (See The life of George Washington : with curious anecdotes, equally honourable to himself and exemplary to his young countrymen by M. L Weems).  Our lives are too short! -- expressed somewhat gloomily in the following life-counting stanza by Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

       OUR days, alas ! our mortal days,
          Are short and wretched too !
       " Evil and few !"  the Patriarch says,
          And well the Patriarch knew !
       'Tis but at best, a narrow bound,
         That Heaven allots to men ;
       And pains and sins run through the round,
          Of three-score years and ten !

Friday, February 15, 2019

Musical sounds of math words -- in a CENTO

  A cento is a literary work formed by assembling 
words or phrases from other writers.  

As a math-person, I love to hear the melodic rhythm of certain multi-syllabic mathematical terms.  And so I have looked at a list of dissertation-titles of twentieth century female mathematicians -- and I have chosen words from these titles that sounded lovely to me.  Here is my cento poem; read it ALOUD and enjoy the sounds.

"Celebrating Dissertations"     

 The math-women whose titles have been sampled here are:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

If 2017 was a poem title . . .

     On my shelf is a 2018 anthology entitled Women of Resistance:  Poems for a New Feminism and, in its Table of Contents, I am particularly drawn to the title that includes a prime number:  "If 2017 was a poem title" by Mahogany L. Browne.  Here is a provocative stanza from that poem:

     A Math Problem
     If 1 woman got a 7 Mac 11
     & 2 heaters for the beemer
     How many Congress seats will NRA lose?
     How many votes will it take for a sexual predator
          to lift the White House off her feet?

For more by this poet, here is a link to Black Girl Magic:  a Poem by Mahogany L. Browne (Roaring Book Press, 2018).

Friday, February 8, 2019

Mathematics and Valentine's Day

     On February 12, 2011, this blog first offered poetry to celebrate Valentine's Day -- and there presented Hannah Stein's poem, "Loving a Mathematician."  Please follow this link and enjoy!
     A perfect way for math-fans to celebrate Valentine's Day is with some "poems of love and mathematics."   Many such poems have been collected in the anthology, Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Pres, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  One of the classics included therein is as a long-loved sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)  -- here are its opening lines:       

     How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
     I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
     My soul can reach . . .

Make time to celebrate love and mathematics!   To find more verses SEARCH this blog using the term Valentine and scroll down through the variety of posts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Speed flunking math . . . NO, NO!

     Found online . . . "Scab Maids on Speed" . . . reminding me once again the being bad at math continues to be a more popular position (especially for girls) than being good at it.  Here is the opening stanza of the poem by Maggie Estep (1963-2014), a leading lady of slam poetry -- and found at PoetrySoup.

     Scab Maids On Speed      by Maggie Estep

      My first job was when I was about 15.
      I had met
     a girl named Hope who became my best friend.
      Hope and I were flunking math
     class so we became speed freaks.
      This honed our algebra skills and we quickly
     became whiz kids.
      For about 5 minutes.
      Then, our brains started to fry
     and we were just teenage speed freaks.

     Then, we decided to to seek gainful employment. . . .

Not poetry, but one of the websites I enjoy is The Math Comic Strips -- a site I first discovered  a few months ago via this "Frank and Ernest" strip about making a difference.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Quantum Lyrics -- Poems

     Quantum Lyrics (W.W.Norton, 2009) is the title of a poetry collection by A. Van Jordan in which the poet celebrates scientists -- including Feynman and Einstein -- and makes vivid use of mathematical and scientific terminology in his poems; here are samples from that collection:

from Richard P. Feynman Lecture:  Broken Symmetries
by A. Van Jordan
Symmetry walks between two worlds.  To the hands it tries to touch us from either side; to the feet it simply wants us not to stumble but to saunter. ...  We believe that love is equal to hate but nothing is perfectly symmetric. ...  Why, for example, does the earth orbit elliptically, as if these old hands had drawn the path, instead of following an elegant circle?