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Some Ramblings on Math, Poetry, and the Well-Tempered Trifecta

Posted on September 3, 2005 at 05:39:25 PM by Student's t.

O my brother Chalkies, some of us don't do the numbers, and some of us do ...

Any of you fellows have sons or daughters who've just headed to college? My girlfriend's daughter just transferred from Colby to Emory. She's signed up for Math 107, Introduction to Probability and Statistics. I keep asking her mom about the syllabus and looking up the professor on the internet, and the text. I was worried at first because the book was by Freund, but then saw that it was in its 8th edition, and there were no calculus prerequisites. Stats for Poets, no doubt ... and yet ... some poets make do make great statisticians. And vice versa.

Thomas Pynchon. English majors in 1973 read Gravity's Rainbow as if it were sacred text. His character, Roger Mexico, plotting the WW II V2 hits on London and conjuring their Poisson frequencies...

"I was a math major when I first read it," a colleague said to me last week as we discussed a recently published appreciation of the book. " I switched to English." She laughed.

"Funny ... I switched from English to math," I laughed back.

They really are the same, math and poetry: language, essentially. Your wife's-birthday-as-trifecta may be pure statistical elegance, and your carefully-simulated-three-tuple pure trochaic meter. In the end, they are the same ticket.

S. t.


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