Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Taken In

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , — m759 @ 9:36 AM

A passage that may or may not have influenced Madeleine L'Engle's
writings about the tesseract :

From Mere Christianity , by C. S. Lewis (1952) —

"Book IV – Beyond Personality:
or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity"
. . . .

I warned you that Theology is practical. The whole purpose for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of God. Wrong ideas about what that life is, will make it harder. And now, for a few minutes, I must ask you to follow rather carefully.

You know that in space you can move in three ways—to left or right, backwards or forwards, up or down. Every direction is either one of these three or a compromise between them. They are called the three Dimensions. Now notice this. If you are using only one dimension, you could draw only a straight line. If you are using two, you could draw a figure: say, a square. And a square is made up of four straight lines. Now a step further. If you have three dimensions, you can then build what we call a solid body, say, a cube—a thing like a dice or a lump of sugar. And a cube is made up of six squares.

Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways—in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.

Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings—just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine.

In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something super-personal—something more than a person. It is something we could never have guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already.

You may ask, "If we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?" Well, there isn't any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time —tonight, if you like.

. . . .

But beware of being drawn into the personal life of the Happy Family .


"The colorful story of this undertaking begins with a bang."

And ends with

Martin Gardner on Galois

"Galois was a thoroughly obnoxious nerd,
 suffering from what today would be called
 a 'personality disorder.'  His anger was
 paranoid and unremitting."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mathematics and Narrative, continued

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 2:14 PM

"By groping toward the light we are made to realize
 how deep the darkness is around us."
  — Arthur Koestler, The Call Girls: A Tragi-Comedy,
      Random House, 1973, page 118

A 1973 review of Koestler's book—

"Koestler's 'call girls,' summoned here and there
 by this university and that foundation
 to perform their expert tricks, are the butts
 of some chilling satire."

Examples of Light—

Felix Christian Klein (1849- June 22, 1925) and Évariste Galois (1811-1832)

Klein on Galois—

"… in France just about 1830 a new star of undreamt-of brilliance— or rather a meteor, soon to be extinguished— lighted the sky of pure mathematics: Évariste Galois."

— Felix Klein, Development of Mathematics in the 19th Century, translated by Michael Ackerman. Brookline, Mass., Math Sci Press, 1979. Page 80.

"… um 1830 herum in Frankreich als ein neuer Stern von ungeahntem Glanze am Himmel der reinen Mathematik aufleuchtet, um freilich, einem Meteor gleich, sehr bald zu verlöschen: Évariste Galois."

— Felix Klein, Vorlesungen Über Die Entwicklung Der Mathematick Im 19. Jahrhundert. New York, Chelsea Publishing Co., 1967. (Vol. I, originally published in Berlin in 1926.) Page 88.

Examples of Darkness—

Martin Gardner on Galois—

"Galois was a thoroughly obnoxious nerd,
 suffering from what today would be called
 a 'personality disorder.'  His anger was
 paranoid and unremitting."

Gardner was reviewing a recent book about Galois by one Amir Alexander.

Alexander himself has written some reviews relevant to the Koestler book above.

See Alexander on—

The 2005 Mykonos conference on Mathematics and Narrative

A series of workshops at Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation between 2003 and 2006. "The meetings brought together professional mathematicians (and other mathematical scientists) with authors, poets, artists, playwrights, and film-makers to work together on mathematically-inspired literary works."

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Better Story

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , — m759 @ 7:59 AM

Continued from May 8
(Feast of Saint Robert Heinlein)

“Wells and trees were dedicated to saints.  But the offerings at many wells and trees were to something other than the saint; had it not been so they would not have been, as we find they often were, forbidden.  Within this double and intertwined life existed those other capacities, of which we know more now, but of which we still know little– clairvoyance, clairaudience, foresight, telepathy.”

— Charles Williams, Witchcraft, Faber and Faber, London, 1941

Why "Saint" Robert? See his accurate depiction of evil– the Eater of Souls in Glory Road.

For more on Williams's "other capacities," see Heinlein's story "Lost Legacy."

A related story– Fritz Leiber's "The Mind Spider." An excerpt:

The conference—it was much more a hyper-intimate

"My static box bugged out for a few ticks this morning,"
Evelyn remarked in the course of talking over the
trivia of the past twenty-four hours.

The static boxes were an invention of Grandfather
Horn. They generated a tiny cloud of meaningless brain
waves. Without such individual thought-screens, there was
too much danger of complete loss of individual personality

—once Grandfather Horn had "become" his infant daughter
as well as himself for several hours and the unfledged
mind had come close to being permanently lost in its own
subconscious. The static boxes provided a mental wall be-
– hind which a mind could safely grow and function, similar
to the wall by which ordinary minds are apparently
always enclosed.

In spite of the boxes, the Horns shared thoughts and
emotions to an amazing degree. Their mental togetherness
was as real and as mysterious—and as incredible—as
thought itself . . . and thought is the original angel-cloud
dancing on the head of a pin. Their present conference
was as warm and intimate and tart as any actual family
gathering in one actual room around one actual table.
Five minds, joined together in the vast mental darkness
that shrouds all minds. Five minds hugged together for
comfort and safety in the infinite mental loneliness that
pervades the cosmos.

Evelyn continued, "Your boxes were all working, of
course, so I couldn't get your thoughts—just the blurs of
your boxes like little old dark grey stars. But this time
if gave me a funny uncomfortable feeling, like a spider
Crawling down my—Grayl! Don't feel so wildly! What
Is it?”

Then… just as Grayl started to think her answer…
something crept from the vast mental darkness and infinite
cosmic loneliness surrounding the five minds of the

Grayl was the first to notice. Her panicky thought had
ttie curling too-keen edge of hysteria. "There are six of
us now! There should only be five, but there are six.
Count! Count, I tell you! Six!"

To Mort it seemed that a gigantic spider was racing
across the web of their thoughts….

See also this journal on May 30– "720 in the Book"– and on May 31– "Memorial for Galois."

("Obnoxious nerds"— a phrase Martin Gardner recently applied to Galois— will note that 720 (= 6!) is one possible result of obeying Leiber's command "Count! Count, I tell you! Six!")

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Harvard Style

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 5:01 PM

"I wonder if there's just been a critical mass
of creepy stories about Harvard
in the last couple of years…
A kind of piling on of
    nastiness and creepiness…"

Margaret Soltan, October 23, 2006

Harvard University Press
  on Facebook

Harvard University Press Harvard University Press
Martin Gardner on demythologizing mathematicians:
"Galois was a thoroughly obnoxious nerd"
  May 26 at 6:28 pm via Ping.f

The book that the late Gardner was reviewing
was published in April by Harvard University Press.

If Gardner's remark were true,
Galois would fit right in at Harvard. Example—
  The Harvard math department's pie-eating contest

Harvard Math Department Pi Day event

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Gardner Tribute

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 1:00 PM

"It is a melancholy pleasure that what may be [Martin] Gardner’s last published piece, a review of Amir Alexander’s Duel at Dawn: Heroes, Martyrs & the Rise of Modern Mathematics, will appear next week in our June issue."

Roger Kimball of The New Criterion, May 23, 2010.

The Gardner piece is now online.  It contains…

Gardner's tribute to Galois—

"Galois was a thoroughly obnoxious nerd,
 suffering from what today would be called
 a 'personality disorder.'  His anger was
 paranoid and unremitting."

Powered by WordPress