Uniformly at Random

Posts Tagged ‘geometry

The Loves of the Triangles

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One of the most bizarre poems in the English language is surely “The Loves of the Triangles”, which is a parody of an almost equally bizarre poem, “The Loves of the Plants“, by Erasmus Darwin.  The following excerpt describes the erotic tendencies of the different conic sections: parabolas, hyperbolas, and ellipses.  I imagine that if parents knew just how dirty geometry can be, we would not be allowed to teach the subject in high schools!

And first, the fair PARABOLA behold,
Her timid arms, with virgin blush, unfold!
Though, on one focus fix’d, her eyes betray
A heart that glows with love’s resistless sway,
Though, climbing oft, she strive with bolder grace
Round his tall neck to clasp her fond embrace,
Still e’er she reach it from his polish’d side
Her trembling hands in devious Tangents glide.

Not thus HYPERBOLA:—with subtlest art
The blue-eyed wanton plays her changeful part;
Quick as her conjugated axes move
Through every posture of luxurious love,
Her sportive limbs with easiest grace expand;
Her charms unveil’d provoke the lover’s hand:—
Unveil’d except in many a filmy ray
Where light Asymptotes o’er her bosom play,
Nor touch her glowing skin, nor intercept the day.

Yet why, ELLIPSIS, at thy fate repine?
More lasting bliss, securer joys are thine.
Though to each fair his treacherous wish may stray,
Though each in turn, may seize a transient sway,
‘Tis thine with mild coercion to restrain,
Twine round his struggling heart, and bind with endless chain.

The full text can be found in The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin, which is available for free download on Google Books.


Written by uncudh

December 14, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Posted in literature, math

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Euclid’s fifth postulate

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Donal O’Shea, in The Poincare Conjecture, quotes Farkas Bolyai’s response to his son Janos upon hearing that Janos was working on trying to prove Euclid’s fifth postulate:

I implore you to make no attempt to master the theory of parallels; you will spend all your time on it. . . . Do not try . . . either by the means you mentioned or any other means. . . . I passed all through the cheerless blackness of this night and buried in it every ray of light, every joy in life.  For God’s sake, I beseech you, give it up.  Fear it no less than sensual passions, because it too may take all your time, deprive you of health, peace of mind and happiness in life.

(Of course, we know that Janos Bolyai ignored his father’s advice and thus discovered non-Euclidean geometry.)

Written by uncudh

May 7, 2009 at 2:53 am

Posted in math

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