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Monday, March 11, 2013

M@h*(pOet)?ica – Mathematics and Love

I have been an interested reader of poems and thoughts by Bob Grumman (USA) (poem above) for sometime, introduced by posts on Ron Silliman's blog. (I've learnt a lot there, thanks, Ron.) Here Bob is as guest blogger for Scientific American  - a posting on mathematics and poetry. Well, sort of. It is not dry as one may expect - he's a vibrant bloggist. Here is a small quote:

#StorySaturday is a Guest Blog weekend experiment in which we invite people to write about science in a different, unusual format – fiction, science fiction, lablit, personal story, fable, fairy tale, poetry, or comic strip. We hope you like it.

I know, I shouldda had math and love as my subject last month. But I’ve been reading essays lately against having Valentine’s Day in the cold, cold month of February. I don’t like it there, either—because I don’t like it competing with the only important holiday in that month (or the year, for that matter!), Groundhog Day, the day I was born. In any case, this entry will feature poems from Strange Attractors, an anthology edited by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney, containing 151 poems (by my count) that are mathematical or about mathematics, and concerned with love. Not necessarily romantic love and courtship, although many are. Among the funniest ones of these (and included are more than a few very funny ones about those topics) is a limerick by Bob Kurosaka concerning a young maiden named “Lizt” who “turned both her lips/ Into Mobius strips . . .” His poem ends with “kissed,” happily exemplifying the anthology’s principal theme. (With the important bonus of two “ips”-rhymes sharing a 5-rhyme poem with 3 “ist”-rhymes!)

Two other poems about kissing in the anthology with an equally entertaining silliness are otherwise notable for having been written not by poets but by those who did consequential work in mathematics. One was Frederick Soddy (1877–1956), a radiochemist who won a Nobel Prize (the first Nobelist, I believe, to have also achieved a place in this blog!) He, with Ernest Rutherford, Wikipedia informs us, explained that radioactivity is due to the transmutation of elements. The other, an English lawyer, Thorold Gosset (1869–1962), was noted for discovering and classifying the semiregular polytopes in dimensions four and higher. (Sorry, I don’t know what polytopes are, either. I’m tempted to say it’s a four-side, 6-dimensional hectosphlidge to spur some expert or other to correct me in a comment; this blog is not getting comments, the only thing about it that bothers me. Well, except its tendency to go off on tangents like this. But “tangent” is an irreproachably mathematical word, so I shouldn’t be bothered.

Oh, it's a fun read, so

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