Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Learning from Poetry -- "The Courtesy of the Blind"

      Can difficulty with understanding mathematics be compared with physical blindness -- a difficulty that is biological rather than chosen?  This is a question that has come to my mind as a reaction to Wislawa Szymborska's poem (offered below) "The Courtesy of the Blind."  This Szymborska poem is part of a wonderful online collections of poetry, Poetry 180, a poem for each day of the 180-day public school year.  

Poem 119: The Courtesy of the Blind     by Wislawa Szymborska

Polish poet Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012)
was the 1996 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature
and the author of over 20 volumes of poetry.

     The poet reads his lines to the blind.
     He hadn’t guessed that it would be so hard.
     His voice trembles.
     His hands shake.

     He senses that every sentence
     is put to the test of darkness.
     He must muddle through alone,
     without colors or lights.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Remembering Alan Turing

      A posting from Mathigon on Twitter reminded me that today is the birthday of pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954); a bio of Turing may be found here at MathigonThis link leads to several poems that celebrate Turing . . .

           Do machines think?

                    Do we?

More about Turing's life and career may be found here.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Mathy Poems on YouTube

      In a recent posting -- 6/08/2022 -- I tell of mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz and link to her website that has a collection of links to works by various mathy poets that have participated in BRIDGES math-arts conferences.  Glaz not only offers connections to poet-information, she also offers links to YouTube recordings of poems -- and recently, to supply her with that, I worked with my granddaughter, Serena Growney, who has just finished her freshman year at high school and knows a lot more about using YouTube than I do.  Here's a link to our Growney-Growney YouTube collaboration(I had intended for Serena to focus on the book cover and not to catch my elbow, etc, in the background -- but perhaps all of that makes it more interesting.)  For viewers who like to see the text of a poem as well as to hear it, here is a link to a blog posting of "Things to Count On" -- and below I offer the text of the poem (a very new one), "A Tragic Mathematical Romance."

A Tragic Mathematical Romance        by JoAnne Growney

     Abscissa, my darling, what is the
     basis for your discontent?  When I
     calculate the
     distance between us, I
     even have trouble seeing it as
     finite – its growth has a steep
     graph, climbing out of my

Friday, June 17, 2022

Word-Play with Mathematics -- On-Stage

      One of the rewards from time spent with mathematics or from time spent with poetry is the array of multiple meanings that we find . . . usually not all-at-once but accumulating.  A master of word-play with mathematical terms and ideas is Mathematics Professor Colin Adams of Williams College.  Each time I attend the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings I look on the schedule for Mathematically Bent Theater -- with a presentation by Adams and the Mobiusbandaid Players. Here is a link to an interview with Adams; and here on YouTube are videos of some of the mathy presentations; EXPLORE and ENJOY!

To add a bit of poetry to this post, I offer below a photo of a visual poem by scientist and writer Bern Porter, found in the anthology Against Infinity.

"Formula" -- by Bern Porter

Against Infinity is an anthology of mathy poems edited by Ernest Robson and Jet Wimp and published by Primary Press in 1979 -- now out of print but available at used-book websites.  Here is a link to other selections from Against Infinity in earlier postings in this blog.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Windmill Proof

      From Alice Major, Canadian poet and first Poet Laureate of the city of Edmonton, Alberta, I learned of Welsh computer science professor emeritus Stephen Payne's new poetry collection, The Windmill Proof.   Here is a sample poem by Payne which appears on the book's back cover. 

Learn more here about Stephen Payne; The Windmill Proof was published by HappenStance Press -- and is available for purchase at this linkHere is a link to a review by Mat Riches and this link leads to a review by Adele Ward;  both reviews contains samples of mathy poems.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Many, many mathy poems -- THANK YOU, Sarah Glaz

      Sarah Glaz, mathematics professor emerita at the University of Connecticut, is also a poet.  AND, not only a poet but a coordinator of math-poetry activities for the annual BRIDGES Math-Arts conferenceThis year's conference will be held in Finland, August 1-5, 2022This link leads to Glaz' announcement of the poetry program at BRIDGES 2022 -- and includes bios and sample poems by poets who plan to attend the conference AND also includes samples of work from some of us poets who have been part of BRIDGES in the past but will be unable to attend this year.  Below are the opening lines from a poem by Glaz that is inspired by the mathematical field of Ring Theory.

The entire poem is available via Glaz's profile at this link.

Work by Sarah Glaz has been featured in a variety of previous posts in this blog.  Here is a link.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Mobius Strip -- in a LIMERICK

     Mathematics offers brief, condensed language for many big ideas.  Even for small problems -- such as the word problems of a beginning algebra class -- translation of the words into a mathematical equation offers the chance to express the problem precisely and to solve it using established procedures.    

     And brief mathematical forms also are popular in poetry -- the six-line Fib and the five-line rhyming stanza called a limerick both have wide appeal.  And, because of the brevity, the language must be concise.  At this webpage, maintained by Joachim Verhagen, are lots and lots of mathy limericks.  Here is a sample:

          The Moebius strip is a pain,
          When you cut it again and again,
               But if you should wedge
              A large disk round the edge
          Then you just get a PROjective plane.

This link leads to an interesting article about a Mobius strip made of light (see also the photo below); this link leads to a Wikipedia article about a real projective plane.  And more of Verhagen's Mobius strip limericks may be found here.  

A Mobius strip from this NOVA article

This link leads to a website with instruction for construction and playful activities with a Mobius strip.  To enjoy limericks found in earlier postings in this blog, follow this link.