Saturday, November 3, 2012

Math and Writers...

An interesting (if a bit esoteric) essay in the current New Yorker on "Why Writers Should Learn Math":

some quotes from the piece:
"What ballet is to football players, mathematics is to writers, a discipline so beguiling and foreign, so close to a taboo, that it actually attracts a few intrepid souls by virtue of its impregnability. The few writers who have ventured headlong into high-level mathematics—Lewis Carroll, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace—have been among our most inventive in both the sentences they construct and the stories they create."

"As the mathematician Terence Tao has written, math study has three stages: the 'pre-rigorous,' in which basic rules are learned, the theoretical 'rigorous' stage, and, last and most intriguing, 'the post-rigorous,' in which intuition suddenly starts to play a part."

"If Hemingway’s writing is algebraic in its precision, then [David Foster] Wallace’s is quantum calculus..."
and a couple of other quotes included in the article:
 “A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns... The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test.” --G.H. Hardy

"Those who’ve been privileged (or forced) to study it understand that the practice of higher mathematics is, in fact, ‘an art’ and that it depends no less than other arts on inspiration, courage, toil, etc.” --David Foster Wallace

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