February 5, 2016
Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.
A colleague suggested that I re-read Euclid as if his definitions were a poem. Considering I study poetry often, this sounded like a fun exercise. I was unprepared, however, for the depth of insight that followed. I already discussed how important it was for Euclid to be both precise and abstract, but I did not realize how truly applicable this revelation was. Euclid’s Elements contain nearly every characteristic of poetry: precise, concise, abstract, yet specific, and most of all, endlessly interconnected. From that exercise, I decided to arrange a few of the passages into a found poem. (A found poem basically takes words and phrases of others and connects them in a poetic format.) The following poem combines words from both Euclid (in italics) and Alfred North Whitehead. Enjoy!
Our Inaccurate Laws
[T]he first noticeable fact
is that it applies
to tastes and to sounds
to apples and to angels
to the ideas of the mind and
to the bones of the body
A point is that which has
but not dimension
The nature of things is perfectly
A line is length
In a mountainous country distances are often reckoned
A line which lies evenly between its
a straight line
To see what is general in
what is particular
and what is permanent in
what is transitory is
the aim of scientific thought
Any combination of points, of lines, or of points and lines
in a plane
is called a plane figure.
any number x which is greater than 1
gives x + 2 > 3
there are an infinite number of numbers
which answer to the some number
in this case
The vital point
in the application of mathematical formulae is
to have clear ideas and
a correct estimate of their relevance to
the phenomena under observation.
our inaccurate laws may be good enough
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