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Sunday, September 15, 2002

Sunday September 15, 2002

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 11:07 PM

Evariste Galois and 
The Rock That Changed Things

An article in the current New York Review of Books (dated Sept. 26) on Ursula K. Le Guin prompted me to search the Web this evening for information on a short story of hers I remembered liking.  I found the following in the journal of mathematician Peter Berman:

  • A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, Ursula K. Le Guin, 1994:
    A book of short stories. Good, entertaining. I especially liked “The Rock That Changed Things.” This story is set in a highly stratified society, one split between elite and enslaved populations. In this community, the most important art form is a type of mosaic made from rocks, whose patterns are read and interpreted by scholars from the elite group. The main character is a slave woman who discovers new patterns in the mosaics. The story is slightly over-the-top but elegant all the same.

I agree that the story is elegant (from a mathematician, a high compliment), so searched Berman’s pages further, finding this:

A table of parallels

between The French Mathematician (a novel about Galois) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

My own version of the Philosopher’s Stone (the phrase used instead of “Sorcerer’s Stone” in the British editions of Harry Potter) appears in my profile picture at top left; see also the picture of Plato’s diamond figure in my main math website.  The mathematics of finite (or “Galois”) fields plays a role in the underlying theory of this figure’s hidden symmetries.  Since the perception of color plays a large role in the Le Guin story and since my version of Plato’s diamond is obtained by coloring Plato’s version, this particular “rock that changes things” might, I hope, inspire Berman to extend his table to include Le Guin’s tale as well.

Even the mosaic theme is appropriate, this being the holiest of the Mosaic holy days.

Dr. Berman, G’mar Chatimah Tova.

1 Comment

  1. thanks for the citation and the kind words! i’ll muse on the possibility of juxtaposing “the rock that changed things” with messrs. galois and potter. and i’ll take a look around your website too.

    peter berman

    Comment by pbmath — Tuesday, September 17, 2002 @ 2:15 PM

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