Monday, June 23, 2014

Dream Palace

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:59 AM

Or: Mathematics and Narrative, Continued

In memory of a Stanford Arabist who reportedly died yesterday:

From preface to Ajami's 'The Dream Palace of the Arabs'

Another dream palace, from science fiction:

From Catherine Asaro’s  The Spacetime Pool :

She couldn’t believe him. That he sounded sane made none of this more plausible. “And you have no idea how this gate works?” she challenged.

His gaze flashed. “Of course I do. It’s a branch. From here to your mountains.”

“A tree, you mean?”

“No. A branch cut to another page. Your universe is one sheet, mine is another.”

She gaped at him. “Do you mean a Riemann sheet?  A branch cut from one Riemann sheet to another?”

“That’s right.” He hesitated. “You know these words?”

She laughed unsteadily. “It’s nonsense. Not the sheets, I mean, but they’re just mathematical constructs! They don’t actually exist. You can’t physically go through  a branch cut any more than you could step into a square root sign.”

He was watching her with an expression that mirrored how she had felt when he told her about his prophecy. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Complex variable analysis.” She felt as if she were in a play where she only knew part of the script. “A branch cut is like a slit in a sheet of paper. It opens onto another sheet. I suppose you could say the sheets are alternate universes. But they aren’t real.”

“They seem quite real,” he said.

Related material: From Sunday, the day of the Stanford Arabist’s death,
a quotation from a 2013 book on “the rise of complex function theory.”

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