That’s mathematics! (song by Tom Lehrer)

Counting sheep
When you’re trying to sleep,
Being fair
When there’s something to share,
Being neat
When you’re folding a sheet,
That’s mathematics!

When a ball
Bounces off of a wall,
When you cook
From a recipe book,
When you know
How much money you owe,
That’s mathematics!

How much gold can you hold in an elephant’s ear?
When it’s noon on the moon, then what time is it here?
If you could count for a year, would you get to infinity,
Or somewhere in that vicinity?

When you choose
How much postage to use,
When you know
What’s the chance it will snow,
When you bet
And you end up in debt,
Oh try as you may,
You just can’t get away
From mathematics!

 

To the Tune of “Thats Entertaimant!”, lyrics by the great Tom Lehrer.

 

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The Law of Statistics

The Law of Statistics

for Sally Clark 1964 – 2007

You, Sally Clark, solicitor,
discover your son, Christopher
dead in his Moses basket. Harry, born
a year later, dies in his bouncy chair.

Pediatrician for the Crown,
Sir Roy Meadow, tells the jury
two cot deaths in the same family
would occur only once in a century.

Odds are one in seventy-three million,
lower than the lottery, beyond all
reasonable doubt. An easy decision:
You must be guilty.

At Styal Prison, the horde screams,
Here’s the nonce! Die woman, die!
They bang on the door, clamber up,
gawp as you cringe in a holding cell.

At the second appeal, your body
is free but your mind has crumpled.
You drink until you die,
your third son, left without a mother.

I tell this story to my medical students,
show death by natural causes
was more likely than murder.

Silence

by Eveline Pye 

First published at http://www.talkingwriting.com/eveline-pye-three-poems

Eveline Pye was an operational research analyst in the Zambian Copper Industry, before lecturing in statistics at Glasgow Caledonian University for 22 years. Her statistical poetry was featured in Significance, the joint magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association in their Life in Statistics series. Her poems appear in the Bridges 2013 Poetry Anthology (in the “Enschede” section, Tesselations Publishing). A collection about Zambia, Smoke that Thunders, was published by Mariscat Press in 2015.

Star-Swirls

The polar ice-caps are melting, the mountain glaciers
Drip into rivers; all feed the ocean;
Tides ebb and flow, but every year a little bit higher.
They will drown New York, they will drown London.
And this place, where I have planted tree and built a stone
house,
Will be under sea. The poor trees will perish,
And little fish will flicker in and out the windows. I built it well,
Thick walls and Portland cement and gray granite,
The tower at least will hold against the sea’s buffeting; it will
become
Geological, fossil and permanent.
What a pleasure it is to mix one’s mind with geological
Time, or with astronomical relax it.
There is nothing like astronomy to pull the stuff out of man.
His stupid dreams and red-rooster importance: let him count the
star-swirls.

by Robinson Jeffers

Galaxy

faint
in deep space,
immense as a brain

down
through the thought-
shaft it drifts, a wale

of light to
which the retina
opens and is centered

time and
space dis-
appearing as the mind

recedes
to a soundless
flickering somewhere

deeper
than consciousness
where, permanent as

change
a whorl of light
rides, wheeling in darkness

by Richard Ryan

Atomic Architecture

Take carbon for example then
What shapely towers it constructs
To house the hopes of men!
What symbols it creates
For power and beauty in the world
Of patterned ring and hexagon –
Building ten thousand things
Of earth and air and water!
Pride searches in the flues of earth
For the diamond and its furious sun,
Love holds its palms before the glow
Of anthracite and purrs.
Five senses take their fill
Of raiment, rainbows and perfumes,
Of sweetness and of monstrous pain.

If life begins in carbon’s dancing atoms
Moving in quadrilles of light
To the music of pure numbers,
Death is the stately measure
Of Time made plausible
By carbon’s slow procession
Out of the shifting structure
Of crumbling flesh and bone.

by A M Sullivan

About Planck Time

Once upon a time, way back in the infinitesimal
First fraction of a second attending our creation,
A tiny drop containing all of it, all energy
And all its guises, burst upon the scene,
Exploding out of nothing into everything
Virtually instantaneously, the way our thoughts
Leap eagerly to occupy the abhorrent void.
Once, say ten or twenty billion years ago,
In Planck time, in no time at all, the veil
Available to our perceptions was flung out
Over space at such a rate the mere imagination
Cannot keep up, so rapidly the speed of light
Lags miraculously behind, producing a series
Of incongruities that has led our curiosity,
Like Ariadne’s thread, through the dim labyrinth
Of our conclusions to the place of our beginning.
In Planck time, everything that is was spread so thin
That all distance is enormous, between each star,
Between subatomic particles, so that we are composed
Almost entirely of emptiness, so that what separates
This world, bright ball floating in its midnight blue,
From the irrefutable logic of no world at all
Has no more substance than the traveler’s dream,
So that nothing can be said for certain except
That sometime, call it Planck time, it will all just
Disappear, a parlor trick, a rabbit in its hat,
Will all go up in a flash of light, abracadabra,
An idea that isn’t being had anymore.

 

by George Bradley