Mar 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day!

Deep down, in the darkest recesses of my soul, I'm a math nerd. I blame my mother - as a mathematician herself, she didn't care about the readin' or the writin' so much as the 'rithmetic. She was giving my brother and me algebra lessons when we were nine and seven, respectively. When I was in elementary school, my teachers were shocked and appalled to find that I actually enjoyed long division. You could have taken my calculator when you pried it from my cold, dead fingers.

Mathematics was just so comforting. I always knew where I stood with numbers - none of this 'I before E except after C' crap. And numbers could be just as miraculous as words. The Fibonacci sequence reflects the structures of atoms, the distance between the planets in our solar system, and the seed scales of pine cones. To communicate with aliens, we beamed e into space - because 2.71828 is the same if you speak English, Japanese, or Klingon.

Sadly, in high school my interest in mathematics waned in favor of what my mother considered 'loser' subjects - English and psychology. When I entered college with dreams of becoming a counselor and writing a novel, a little bit of her died inside. After my freshman calculus class (in which I was named Most Promising New Student by Professor Ilya "The Thrill-ya" Spitkovsky, largely due to the fact that I was the one student who didn't run afoul of his thick Ukrainian accent), I dropped the study of mathematics altogether. When I took biostatistics and population genetics in grad school, math had become something of a chore. I still expected to do well, but most of the thrill was gone.

My love of liberal (read: hippie-dippie) arts notwithstanding, I do let my Inner Math Nerd out to play every once in a while. And there's no law saying I can't enjoy both poetry and pi...

by Wislawa Szymborska (Nobel Laureate in Literature)

The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can’t be comprehended six five three five at a glance.
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is, by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.

Click for the rest of the poem.


Anonymous said...

sounds to me like there is a mathematician inside you screaming to get out. Pi is good for the sould you know...

Monkey Sri said...

Heh, indeed. Thanks for the comment. Also ... do I know you?

Indu said...

beautiful poem. thank you for sharing.

Monkey Sri said...

You're welcome. Thanks for commenting!

mathim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Monkey Sri said...

mathim - Thanks for commenting! The accent wasn't that bad for me, but I know some of my classmates struggled with it :P