Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Birthday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 6:00 AM

To an investor in disambiguation


Looking for Action—

"To me, the meaning was clear: when people search, they aren't just looking for nouns or information; they are looking for action. They want to book a flight, reserve a table, buy a product, cure a hangover, take a class, fix a leak, resolve an argument, or occasionally find a person, for which Facebook is very handy. They mostly want to find something in order to do something."

Esther Dyson on "The Future of Internet Search,"
    dated August 19, 2010.
    See also that date in this journal.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

True Grid (continued)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:00 PM

"Rosetta Stone" as a Metaphor
  in Mathematical Narratives

For some backgound, see Mathematics and Narrative from 2005.

Yesterday's posts on mathematics and narrative discussed some properties
of the 3×3 grid (also known as the ninefold square ).

For some other properties, see (at the college-undergraduate, or MAA, level)–
Ezra Brown, 2001, "Magic Squares, Finite Planes, and Points of Inflection on Elliptic Curves."

His conclusion:

When you are done, you will be able to arrange the points into [a] 3×3 magic square,
which resembles the one in the book [5] I was reading on elliptic curves….

This result ties together threads from finite geometry, recreational mathematics,
combinatorics, calculus, algebra, and number theory. Quite a feat!

5. Viktor Prasolov and Yuri Solvyev, Elliptic Functions and Elliptic Integrals ,
    American Mathematical Society, 1997.

Brown fails to give an important clue to the historical background of this topic —
the word Hessian . (See, however, this word in the book on elliptic functions that he cites.)

Investigation of this word yields a related essay at the graduate-student, or AMS, level–
Igor Dolgachev and Michela Artebani, 2009, "The Hesse Pencil of Plane Cubic Curves ."

From the Dolgachev-Artebani introduction–

In this paper we discuss some old and new results about the widely known Hesse
  of 9 points and 12 lines in the projective plane P2(k ): each point lies
on 4 lines and each line contains 3 points, giving an abstract configuration (123, 94).

PlanetMath.org on the Hesse configuration


A picture of the Hesse configuration–

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05B/grid3x3med.bmp” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

(See Visualizing GL(2,p), a note from 1985).

Related notes from this journal —

From last November —

Saturday, November 13, 2010


m759 @ 10:12 PM

From the December 2010 American Mathematical Society Notices


Related material from this  journal—

Mathematics and Narrative and

Consolation Prize (August 19, 2010)

From 2006 —

Sunday December 10, 2006


 m759 @ 9:00 PM

A Miniature Rosetta Stone:

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05B/grid3x3med.bmp” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

“Function defined form, expressed in a pure geometry
that the eye could easily grasp in its entirety.”

– J. G. Ballard on Modernism
(The Guardian , March 20, 2006)

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance –
it is the illusion of knowledge.”

— Daniel J. Boorstin,
Librarian of Congress, quoted in Beyond Geometry

Also from 2006 —

Sunday November 26, 2006


m759 @ 7:26 AM

Rosalind Krauss
in "Grids," 1979:

"If we open any tract– Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art  or The Non-Objective World , for instance– we will find that Mondrian and Malevich are not discussing canvas or pigment or graphite or any other form of matter.  They are talking about Being or Mind or Spirit.  From their point of view, the grid is a staircase to the Universal, and they are not interested in what happens below in the Concrete.

Or, to take a more up-to-date example…."

"He was looking at the nine engravings and at the circle,
checking strange correspondences between them."
The Club Dumas ,1993

"And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason."
Robert Plant ,1971

The nine engravings of The Club Dumas
(filmed as "The Ninth Gate") are perhaps more
an example of the concrete than of the universal.

An example of the universal*– or, according to Krauss,
a "staircase" to the universal– is the ninefold square:

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/grid3x3.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"This is the garden of Apollo, the field of Reason…."
John Outram, architect    

For more on the field of reason, see
Log24, Oct. 9, 2006.

A reasonable set of "strange correspondences"
in the garden of Apollo has been provided by
Ezra Brown in a mathematical essay (pdf).

Unreason is, of course, more popular.

* The ninefold square is perhaps a "concrete universal" in the sense of Hegel:

"Two determinations found in all philosophy are the concretion of the Idea and the presence of the spirit in the same; my content must at the same time be something concrete, present. This concrete was termed Reason, and for it the more noble of those men contended with the greatest enthusiasm and warmth. Thought was raised like a standard among the nations, liberty of conviction and of conscience in me. They said to mankind, 'In this sign thou shalt conquer,' for they had before their eyes what had been done in the name of the cross alone, what had been made a matter of faith and law and religion– they saw how the sign of the cross had been degraded."

– Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy ,
   "Idea of a Concrete Universal Unity"

"For every kind of vampire,
there is a kind of cross."
– Thomas Pynchon   

And from last October —

Friday, October 8, 2010


m759 @ 12:00 PM

Starting Out in the Evening
… and Finishing Up at Noon

This post was suggested by last evening's post on mathematics and narrative and by Michiko Kakutani on Vargas Llosa in this morning's New York Times .



Above: Frank Langella in
"Starting Out in the Evening"

Right: Johnny Depp in
"The Ninth Gate"


"One must proceed cautiously, for this road— of truth and falsehood in the realm of fiction— is riddled with traps and any enticing oasis is usually a mirage."

– "Is Fiction the Art of Lying?"* by Mario Vargas Llosa,
    New York Times  essay of October 7, 1984

* The Web version's title has a misprint—
   "living" instead of "lying."

"You've got to pick up every stitch…"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Consolation Prize

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 9:04 AM

For Kathrin Bringmann, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for a Fields Medal.

The four Fields medal winners were announced today at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad, India. Bringmann was not among them.

Bringmann was, however, the winner of the 2009 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize

See The Hindu  of September 30, 2009 and this journal on that date

Motto of Plato's Academy: 'Let no one ignorant of geometry enter'

The 3x3 grid

A Symbol of Apollo

For more about Bringmann's work, see an article on what has been called Ramanujan's "final problem."

For another problem with a claim to this title, see "Mathematician Untangles Legendary Problem" and search in this journal for Dyson + crank.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday August 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 10:30 AM

Group Actions, 1984-2009

From a 1984 book review:

"After three decades of intensive research by hundreds of group theorists, the century old problem of the classification of the finite simple groups has been solved and the whole field has been drastically changed. A few years ago the one focus of attention was the program for the classification; now there are many active areas including the study of the connections between groups and geometries, sporadic groups and, especially, the representation theory. A spate of books on finite groups, of different breadths and on a variety of topics, has appeared, and it is a good time for this to happen. Moreover, the classification means that the view of the subject is quite different; even the most elementary treatment of groups should be modified, as we now know that all finite groups are made up of groups which, for the most part, are imitations of Lie groups using finite fields instead of the reals and complexes. The typical example of a finite group is GL(n, q), the general linear group of n dimensions over the field with q elements. The student who is introduced to the subject with other examples is being completely misled."

— Jonathan L. Alperin,
   review of books on group theory,
   Bulletin (New Series) of the American
   Mathematical Society
10 (1984) 121, doi:

A more specific example:

Actions of GL(2,3) on a 3x3 coordinate-array

The same example
at Wolfram.com:

Ed Pegg Jr.'s program at Wolfram.com to display a large number of actions of small linear groups over finite fields

Caption from Wolfram.com:
"The two-dimensional space Z3×Z3 contains nine points: (0,0), (0,1), (0,2), (1,0), (1,1), (1,2), (2,0), (2,1), and (2,2). The 48 invertible 2×2 matrices over Z3 form the general linear group known as GL(2, 3). They act on Z3×Z3 by matrix multiplication modulo 3, permuting the nine points. More generally, GL(n, p) is the set of invertible n×n matrices over the field Zp, where p is prime. With (0, 0) shifted to the center, the matrix actions on the nine points make symmetrical patterns."

Citation data from Wolfram.com:

"GL(2,p) and GL(3,3) Acting on Points"
 from The Wolfram Demonstrations Project,
 Contributed by: Ed Pegg Jr"

As well as displaying Cullinane's 48 pictures of group actions from 1985, the Pegg program displays many, many more actions of small finite general linear groups over finite fields. It illustrates Cullinane's 1985 statement:

"Actions of GL(2,p) on a p×p coordinate-array have the same sorts of symmetries, where p is any odd prime."

Pegg's program also illustrates actions on a cubical array– a 3×3×3 array acted on by GL(3,3). For some other actions on cubical arrays, see Cullinane's Finite Geometry of the Square and Cube.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday August 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 8:30 AM
Three Times

"Credences of Summer," VII,

by Wallace Stevens, from
Transport to Summer (1947)

"Three times the concentred
     self takes hold, three times
The thrice concentred self,
     having possessed
The object, grips it
     in savage scrutiny,
Once to make captive,
     once to subjugate
Or yield to subjugation,
     once to proclaim
The meaning of the capture,
     this hard prize,
Fully made, fully apparent,
     fully found."

Stevens does not say what object he is discussing.

One possibility —

Bertram Kostant, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at MIT, on an object discussed in a recent New Yorker:

"A word about E(8). In my opinion, and shared by others, E(8) is the most magnificent 'object' in all of mathematics. It is like a diamond with thousands of facets. Each facet offering a different view of its unbelievable intricate internal structure."

Another possibility —

The 4x4 square

  A more modest object —
the 4×4 square.

Update of Aug. 20-21 —

Symmetries and Facets

Kostant's poetic comparison might be applied also to this object.

The natural rearrangements (symmetries) of the 4×4 array might also be described poetically as "thousands of facets, each facet offering a different view of… internal structure."

More precisely, there are 322,560 natural rearrangements– which a poet might call facets*— of the array, each offering a different view of the array's internal structure– encoded as a unique ordered pair of symmetric graphic designs. The symmetry of the array's internal structure is reflected in the symmetry of the graphic designs. For examples, see the Diamond 16 Puzzle.

For an instance of Stevens's "three times" process, see the three parts of the 2004 web page Ideas and Art.

* For the metaphor of rearrangements as facets, note that each symmetry (rearrangement) of a Platonic solid corresponds to a rotated facet: the number of symmetries equals the number of facets times the number of rotations (edges) of each facet–

Platonic solids' symmetry groups

The metaphor of rearrangements as facets breaks down, however, when we try to use it to compute, as above with the Platonic solids, the number of natural rearrangements, or symmetries, of the 4×4 array. Actually, the true analogy is between the 16 unit squares of the 4×4 array, regarded as the 16 points of a finite 4-space (which has finitely many symmetries), and the infinitely many points of Euclidean 4-space (which has infinitely many symmetries).

If Greek geometers had started with a finite space (as in The Eightfold Cube), the history of mathematics might have dramatically illustrated Halmos's saying (Aug. 16) that

"The problem is– the genius is– given an infinite question, to think of the right finite question to ask. Once you thought of the finite answer, then you would know the right answer to the infinite question."

The Greeks, of course, answered the infinite questions first– at least for Euclidean space. Halmos was concerned with more general modern infinite spaces (such as Hilbert space) where the intuition to be gained from finite questions is still of value.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Saturday August 19, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 4:28 PM

"With no means to verify its truth, superstring theory, in the words of Burton Richter, director emeritus of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, may turn out to be 'a kind of metaphysical wonderland.' Yet it is being pursued as vigorously as ever, its critics complain, treated as the only game in town."

— "The Inelegant Universe," by George Johnson, in the Sept. 2006 Scientific American

Some may prefer metaphysics of a different sort:

"To enter Cervantes’s world, we cross a threshold that is Shakespearean and quixotic into a metaphysical wonderland where time expands to become space and vast vaulted distances bend back on themselves, where the threads of fiction and the strands of history shuttle back and forth in the great loom of the artist’s imagination."

As wonderlands go, I personally prefer Clive Barker's Weaveworld.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday August 19, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 2:00 PM

Mathematics and Narrative

"There is a pleasantly discursive treatment of Pontius Pilate's unanswered question 'What is truth?'"

H. S. M. Coxeter, 1987, introduction to Richard J. Trudeau's remarks on the "Story Theory" of truth as opposed to  the "Diamond Theory" of truth " in The Non-Euclidean Revolution

"I had an epiphany: I thought 'Oh my God, this is it! People are talking about elliptic curves and of course they think they are talking mathematics. But are they really? Or are they talking about stories?'"

An organizer of last month's "Mathematics and Narrative" conference

"A new epistemology is emerging to replace the Diamond Theory of truth. I will call it the 'Story Theory' of truth: There are no diamonds. People make up stories about what they experience. Stories that catch on are called 'true.' The Story Theory of truth is itself a story that is catching on. It is being told and retold, with increasing frequency, by thinkers of many stripes*…."

Richard J. Trudeau in The Non-Euclidean Revolution

"'Deniers' of truth… insist that each of us is trapped in his own point of view; we make up stories about the world and, in an exercise of power, try to impose them on others."

— Jim Holt in this week's New Yorker magazine.  Click on the box below.

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05B/050819-Critic4.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

* Many stripes

   "What disciplines were represented at the meeting?"
   "Apart from historians, you mean? Oh, many: writers, artists, philosophers, semioticians, cognitive psychologists – you name it."


An organizer of last month's "Mathematics and Narrative" conference

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Thursday August 19, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 5:01 AM

The Tiffany Code

5:01:58 AM ET:

A link for Jill St. John's birthday —

The Geometrics of Brilliance

Twinkle, twinkle…

Beach reading for
 brilliant redheads…

and for everyone else:

Click on pictures for details.

Thursday August 19, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 1:06 AM

Instantia Crucis

"Francis Bacon used the phrase instantia crucis, 'crucial instance,' to refer to something in an experiment that proves one of two hypotheses and disproves the other. Bacon's phrase was based on a sense of the Latin word crux, 'cross,' which had come to mean 'a guidepost that gives directions at a place where one road becomes two,' and hence was suitable for Bacon's metaphor."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

The high notes hit by Harriet Wheeler, Jen Slocumb, and Alanis Morissette can, I am sorry to say, be excruciating. (See previous entry.) I greatly prefer the mellow tones of Mary Chapin Carpenter:

"I guess you're never really all alone,
        or too far from the pull of home,
An' the stars upon that painted dome
        still shine."

MCC, Grand Central Station

From an entry of 12/22/02:


As if

A white horse comes as if on wings.

— I Ching, Hexagram 22: Grace

See also

Plato, Pegasus, and the Evening Star,

Shining Forth, and

Music for Pegasus.

Carpenter's song quoted above
is from the album
Between Here and Gone,
released April 27, 2004.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Tuesday August 19, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 10:23 PM

O'Hara's Fingerpost

In The New York Times Book Review of next Sunday (August 24, 2003), Book Review editor Charles McGrath writes that author John O'Hara

"… discovered a kind of story… in which a line of dialogue or even a single observed detail indicates that something crucial has changed."

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

crucial – 1706, from Fr. crucial… from L. crux (gen. crucis) "cross." The meaning "decisive, critical" is extended from a logical term, Instantias Crucis, adopted by Francis Bacon (1620); the notion is of cross fingerboard signposts at forking roads, thus a requirement to choose.

The remainder of this note deals with the "single observed detail" 162.



Instantias Crucis

Francis Bacon says

"Among Prerogative Instances I will put in the fourteenth place Instances of the Fingerpost, borrowing the term from the fingerposts which are set up where roads part, to indicate the several directions. These I also call Decisive and Judicial, and in some cases, Oracular and Commanding Instances. I explain them thus. When in the investigation of any nature the understanding is so balanced as to be uncertain to which of two or more natures the cause of the nature in question should be assigned on account of the frequent and ordinary concurrence of many natures, instances of the fingerpost show the union of one of the natures with the nature in question to be sure and indissoluble, of the other to be varied and separable; and thus the question is decided, and the former nature is admitted as the cause, while the latter is dismissed and rejected. Such instances afford very great light and are of high authority, the course of interpretation sometimes ending in them and being completed. Sometimes these instances of the fingerpost meet us accidentally among those already noticed, but for the most part they are new, and are expressly and designedly sought for and applied, and discovered only by earnest and active diligence."

The original:

Inter praerogativas instantiarum, ponemus loco decimo quarto Instantias Crucis; translato vocabulo a Crucibus, quae erectae in biviis indicant et signant viarum separationes. Has etiam Instantias Decisorias et Judiciales, et in casibus nonnullis Instantias Oraculi et Mandati, appellare consuevimus. Earum ratio talis est. Cum in inquisitione naturae alicujus intellectus ponitur tanquam in aequilibrio, ut incertus sit utri naturarum e duabus, vel quandoque pluribus, causa naturae inquisitae attribui aut assignari debeat, propter complurium naturarum concursum frequentem et ordinarium, instantiae crucis ostendunt consortium unius ex naturis (quoad naturam inquisitam) fidum et indissolubile, alterius autem varium et separabile ; unde terminatur quaestio, et recipitur natura illa prior pro causa, missa altera et repudiata. Itaque hujusmodi instantiae sunt maximae lucis, et quasi magnae authoritatis; ita ut curriculum interpretationis quandoque in illas desinat, et per illas perficiatur. Interdum autem Instantiae Crucis illae occurrunt et inveniuntur inter jampridem notatas; at ut plurimum novae sunt, et de industria atque ex composito quaesitae et applicatae, et diligentia sedula et acri tandem erutae.

— Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, Book Two, "Aphorisms," Section XXXVI

A Cubist Crucifixion

An alternate translation:

"When in a Search of any Nature the Understanding stands suspended, the Instances of the Fingerpost shew the true and inviolable Way in which the Question is to be decided. These Instances afford great Light…"

From a review by Adam White Scoville of Iain Pears's novel titled An Instance of the Fingerpost:

"The picture, viewed as a whole, is a cubist description, where each portrait looks strikingly different; the failings of each character's vision are obvious. However, in a cubist painting the viewer often can envision the subject in reality. Here, even after turning the last page, we still have a fuzzy view of what actually transpired. Perhaps we are meant to see the story as a cubist retelling of the crucifixion, as Pilate, Barabbas, Caiaphas, and Mary Magdalene might have told it. If so, it is sublimely done so that the realization gradually and unexpectedly dawns upon the reader. The title, taken from Sir Francis Bacon, suggests that at certain times, 'understanding stands suspended' and in that moment of clarity (somewhat like Wordsworth's 'spots of time,' I think), the answer will become apparent as if a fingerpost were pointing at the way. The final narrative is also titled An Instance of the Fingerpost, perhaps implying that we are to see truth and clarity in this version. But the biggest mystery of this book is that we have actually have no reason to credit the final narrative more than the previous three and so the story remains an enigma, its truth still uncertain."

For the "162" enigma, see


The Matthias Defense, and

The Still Point and the Wheel.

See also the December 2001 Esquire and

the conclusion of my previous entry.

Tuesday August 19, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 5:23 PM

Intelligence Test

From my August 31, 2002, entry quoting Dr. Maria Montessori on conciseness, simplicity, and objectivity:

Above: Dr. Harrison Pope, Harvard professor of psychiatry, demonstrates the use of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale "block design" subtest.

Another Harvard psychiatrist, Armand Nicholi, is in the news lately with his book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life






For the meaning of the Old-Testament logos above, see the remarks of Plato on the immortality of the soul at


For the meaning of the New-Testament logos above, see the remarks of R. P. Langlands at

The Institute for Advanced Study.

For the meaning of life, see

The Gospel According to Jill St. John,

whose birthday is today.

"Some sources credit her with an I.Q. of 162."

Powered by WordPress