Tuesday, October 09, 2012

mildly relevant (and amusing): maths and poetry.

~ from letters of note, in reply to alfred, lord tennysοn's poem, the vision of sin.

In your otherwise beautiful poem "The Vision of Sin" there is a verse which reads – "Every moment dies a man, Every moment one is born." It must be manifest that if this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death.

I would suggest that in the next edition of your poem you have it read – "Every moment dies a man, Every moment 1 1/16 is born."

The actual figure is so long I cannot get it onto a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry.

I am, Sir, yours, etc.,
CharΙes Babbagε
// added later

to be fair, it might still be true. i'm reading "every moment dies a man" to mean that for each moment, there is a man who dies, but there's no claim that exactly one man dies that moment.

however, it would be incorrect if there were moments when no man dies.

(at any rate, don't mind me: i didn't sleep well last night, was tired after a giving a seminar talk, and unwisely decided to tackle a lemma for a new problem to work on .. all of which have drained my energy and good sense for the evening.)

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