Monday, October 19, 2020

2020 Nobel Laureates -- Mathematics and Poetry

     Both mathematics and poetry are languages for conveying complex ideas . . . for example, Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose uses mathematics to study black holes and as a foundation for his notion that the universe as we know it is not unique but one in a series of universes.  Recently the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded award one-half of  the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 to Roger Penrose for the discovery that "black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity."

     The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to US Poet Louise Glück.  In 2003 Glück was selected US Poet Laureate of the US and she has twelve published poetry collections in addition to lots of online offerings.  An interesting complement to her poetry is her 1994 collection of essays, Proofs and Theories;  Essays on Poetry   In her opening essay, "Education of the Poet" (available online here) she makes this statement that relates well to mathematics:

  "I loved those poems that seemed so small on the page
but that swelled in the mind; . . ."

At one may find dozens of poems by Louise Glück; here are a few lines:

from:       Parable of the Swans     by Louise Glück

       On a small lake off
       the map of the world, two
       swans lived. As swans,
       they spent eighty percent of the day studying
       themselves in the attentive water and
       twenty percent ministering to the beloved
       other. Thus
       their fame as lovers stems
       chiefly from narcissism, which leaves
       so little leisure for
       more general cruising. But
       fate had other plans: after ten years, they hit
       slimy water; whatever the filth was, it
       clung to the male’s plumage, which turned
       instantly gray; simultaneously,
       the true purpose of his neck’s
       flexible design revealed itself.  . . . 

The rest of "Parable of the Swans" (from Gluck's collection Meadowlands, The Ecco Press, 1996) may be found here.

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