Sunday, March 29, 2009


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then -- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life -- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain.
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
-Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mathematics is . . . (HUH?)

"Mathematics is not only real, but it is the only reality."
Martin Gardner (1994)
"Mathematics is an escape from reality."
Stanislaw Ulam (1991)

Well, we mathematicians do love our paradoxes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Never Thought I'd Say This

I've never been a fan, but today I say:
"Thank goodness for cell phones!" :-)

Unless you've been in one of my classes, you may not be able to FULLY appreciate this. Sadly, whenever I am teaching anything relating to circles, I feel called upon to pause before I do any drawing and state, "PRETEND this is a circle." The resulting image usually comes out (at best) looking like some sort of pathetic egg laid by a mutant chicken.

Yesterday in class I drew the best circle of my life. Knowing I would never be able to replicate this feat I said, "I wish I had a camera!"

Unbeknownst to me, one of my students took a picture of it with her cell and sent it to me today. So I have proof that I have, once in my life, drawn something that is a reasonable facsimile of a circle. It will probably never happen again, so this picture is tantamount to a picture of the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Were it not for Kelley's cell phone, "Nessie" would be lost forever ;-D

Monday, March 23, 2009

Revery Alone Will Do

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Promoting Play

What you see above is a picture of a game created by my friend Tony, a game inventor who is just breaking into the market. In an earlier post I mentioned his game "Dissed." Now he has this new one out, Magniverse. It is 6 games in one. The marbles are magnetic, but sometimes repel each other in surprising ways.

Tony is interested in the "Aha Moment" when the brain makes a connection when solving a riddle or a puzzle - or getting a joke. He's currently working on his Ph.D. relating to this, and is doing cool stuff like taking MRI's while people solve puzzles. I love making connections and knowing what makes people's brains tick, so in my next life that's what I want to do too! :-)

I'm doing my best to make such connections in my Master's program, but I don't have access to any MRI machines!

Tony is currently selling the game from his own site but has a company interested in buying it (Gamewright). If you'd like to check this out - or his other game: Dissed - or just have the link for future reference - as more games will certainly be created by him, here it is:

Click on the individual game names in the left column in order to check them out! Also, check out his Mission Statement, which I applaud!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rubik's Cube "Before"

Back in the day when the Rubik's Cube first came out I was able to solve it (with help from the instruction manual, of course!). That was many moons ago, and I no longer remember how now that they've become popular again, but I've found a good teacher -- my son!

Because he is shy and because he is a perfectionist it took me a long time to convince him to let me tape him. I think he has an idea he shouldn't be taped unless he is near world record time, which he is not, but I find the 34 seconds here pretty impressive (fastest for him is 27 seconds). So I'm putting this up here as a "before." He continues to study various methods and moves and hopes to improve his time. Once he's made a significant improvement I'll post that as "after." (Let it be known right now that I am NOT going to be going for speed. I simply want to learn how to do the thing again!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Here is the new extra credit project I'll be having my students work on this month. It's a project called "Regifting Robin." When you go to that link you'll be asked to choose a 2-digit number and then to subtract from that number its first digit and its second digit. FOR EXAMPLE, if you pick 25 you would subtract 2 and then you would subtract 5; the result is 18. What you do with this resulting number is look on a grid at that link, and Regifting Robin will read your mind by telling you what gift is in the box with the number you ended up with.

I've seen some chat rooms where this trick is discussed, and some people say, "Not bad! She got it right half the time." Um . . . sorry, that means those people didn't subtract correctly. This does work every time.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Frailest Thing

Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

David Update

David has put up a new update on his ongoing stroke recovery. Click on DAVID at right to read it.
(Spoiler: He ran his first road race since his stroke!! :-)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Blanket Wealthier

Snow beneath whose chilly softness
Some that never lay
Make their first Repose this Winter
I admonish Thee

Blanket Wealthier the Neighbor
We so new bestow
Than thine acclimated Creature
Wilt Thou, Austere Snow?
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I Fear More for Munin

Well, Odin was right to fear more for Munin. We say good-bye to her today. I've posted the meanings of their names before, but I'm going to do it again to explain why Odin feared more for Munin. The following is from Wikipedia.
"Huginn and Muninn, sometimes anglicised Hugin and Munin, are a pair of ravens associated with the Norse god Odin. In Norse mythology, Huginn and Muninn travel the world bearing news and information they have collected to Odin. Huginn is "thought" and Muninn is "memory". They are sent out at dawn to gather information and return in the evening. They perch on the god's shoulders and whisper the news into his ears. It is from these ravens that the kenning 'raven-god' for Odin is derived.

From Grímnismál:

Old Norse:

Huginn ok Muninn fliúga hverian dag
iörmungrund yfir;
óomk ek of Huginn, at hann aptr ne komit,
þó siámk meirr um Muninn.


The whole world wide, every day,
fly Huginn and Muninn;
I worry lest Huginn should fall in flight,
yet more I fear for Muninn.

Another translation reads,

Every morning the two ravens Huginn and Muninn, are loosed and fly over Midgard; I always fear that Thought may not wing his way home, but my fear for Memory is greater."
Today Munin did not "wing her way home."
We shall miss her.
She was a good pet.