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NY Times Guest Essay Speaks to Computational Literature

Posted 11 months ago

Enjoyed the guest essay in the NY Times by British mathematician Sarah Hart, "The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature." In the essay, Hart says: There is a deeper reason we find mathematics at the heart of literature. The universe is full of underlying structure, pattern and regularity, and mathematics is the best tool we have for understanding it — that’s why mathematics is often called the language of the universe, and why it is so vital to science. The essay notes that it is a modern idea to perceive a boundary between math and literature, and it is a misconception we work to change everyday with training and resources from Wolfram U.

Here is a link to the article:

POSTED BY: Jamie Peterson
Posted 11 months ago

The language of structure, pattern, and regularity is found in our literature. It's also found in our less-formal linguistic efforts: loose metaphors, anecdotes, jokes and even puns about science concepts. There are plenty of jokes about the wave-particle duality, Schrödinger's Cat, and Gödel's incompleteness theorem floating about in conversations and social media postings.

I'm personally fond of formal and less-formal mentions of impedance matching. While many users of that term have no idea of its formal meaning in electrical circuits or mechanical systems, the informal/metaphorical phrases are usually pointing in the right direction. Oliver Heaviside, the mathematician/physicist who invented the concept of impedance, had a wonderful zinger about using inductors in signal lines:

Looking more deeply into circuit theory, Heaviside also found that adding more inductance to the circuit—for instance, by inserting coils at regular intervals along the transmission cable—would reduce the distortion even further. The extra inductance, he explained, would help carry the waves along in much the same way that loading a clothesline with birdshot makes it better able to convey transverse waves. He later joked that his name and inductive loading were “naturally and providentially connected. You heavify a line by the process of heavification.”

Loading a clothesline with birdshot is a delicious metaphor; coining the term heavification is just icing on the cake! Heaviside is also referenced in literature: the musical "Cats" notes that Grizabella rises up, up, up to "the Heaviside layer" – part of the ionisphere – near the end of the musical.

POSTED BY: Phil Earnhardt
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