Monday, April 04, 2005

Math Poetry Contest

From a poster in my building:
What is the longest song?

"ℵ0 bottles of beer on the wall."

Happy Mathematics Awareness Month!

April is also National Poetry Month. In honor of April I am running my first (and perhaps last) annual math poetry contest. Winner will receive a copy of Complexity of Computations and Proofs (Jan Karjicek, editor), volume 13 of Quaderni di Matematica, Dipartimento di Matematica della Seconda Universitá Napoli, 2004.

Submit your new original poem on a mathematics or theoretical computer science theme in the comments section of this post with your name and/or email. One entry per person. Entries due by 11:59 PM CDT on Monday April 18. A panel of celebrity judges will choose the winning poem based on whatever criteria they deem fit. The decision of the judges are final.

Update: And the winner is…


  1. I was reminded of this poem when
    I saw your post... A poem by
    Samuel Coleridge to his brother
    on the construction of an equilateral triangle... and proof
    that the construction is right.

    If a proof must be beautiful, none
    is better than one that rhymes.

    This is now--this was erst,
    Proposition the first--and Problem the first.


    On a given finite Line
    Which must no way incline;
    To describe an equi--
    --lateral Tri--
    --A, N, G, L, E.
    Now let A. B.
    Be the given line
    Which must no way incline;
    The great Mathematician
    Makes this Requisition,
    That we describe an Equi--
    --lateral Tri--
    --angle on it:
    Aid us, Reason--aid us, Wit!


    From the centre A. at the distance A. B.
    Describe the circle B. C. D.
    At the distance B. A. from B. the centre
    The round A. C. E. to describe boldly venture.
    (Third Postulate see.)
    And from the point C.
    In which the circles make a pother
    Cutting and slashing one another,
    Bid the straight lines a journeying go,
    C. A., C. B. those lines will show.
    To the points, which by A. B. are reckon'd,
    And postulate the second
    For Authority ye know.
    A. B. C.
    Triumphant shall be
    An Equilateral Triangle,
    Not Peter Pindar carp, not Zoilus can wrangle.


    Because the point A. is the centre
    Of the circular B. C. D.
    And because the point B. is the centre
    Of the circular A. C. E.
    A. C. to A. B. and B. C. to B. A.
    Harmoniously equal for ever must stay;
    Then C. A. and B. C.
    Both extend the kind hand
    To the basis, A. B.
    Unambitiously join'd in Equality's Band.
    But to the same powers, when two powers are equal,
    My mind forbodes the sequel;
    My mind does some celestial impulse teach,
    And equalises each to each.
    Thus C. A. with B. C. strikes the same sure alliance,
    That C. A. and B. C. had with A. B. before;
    And in mutual affiance,
    None attempting to soar
    Above another,
    The unanimous three
    C. A. and B. C. and A. B.
    All are equal, each to his brother,
    Preserving the balance of power so true:
    Ah! the like would the proud Autocratorix do!
    At taxes impending not Britain would tremble,
    Nor Prussia struggle her fear to dissemble;
    Nor the Mah'met-sprung Wight,
    The great Mussulman
    Would stain his Divan
    With Urine the soft-flowing daughter of Fright.


    But rein your stallion in, too daring Nine!
    Should Empires bloat the scientific line?
    Or with dishevell'd hair all madly do ye run
    For transport that your task is done?
    For done it is--the cause is tried!
    And Proposition, gentle Maid,
    Who soothly ask'd stern Demonstration's aid,
    Has prov'd her right, and A. B. C.
    Of Angles three
    Is shown to be of equal side;
    And now our weary steed to rest in fine,
    'Tis rais'd upon A. B. the straight, the given line.

  2. But, but, I know of a song which is strictly longer than that one -- "?? bottles of beer on the wall."

    (That should read aleph_1 with unicode support)

  3. scratch that, that _would_ have read aleph_1 with unicode support had my browser and/or blogger not decided to eat the unicode and spit out question marks.

  4. Here's a song that may or may not be longer than the second commentor's (depending on your set theory) ;-)

    "Continuum many bottles of beer on the wall."

  5. This isn't actually mine, and I don't actually know who the author is, and it's only a limerick, but it's the only math poem I know off the top of my head:

    A dozen a gross and a score
    Plus two times the square root of four
    Divided by seven
    Plus five times eleven
    is nine squared plus zero, no more.

  6. We're always eager to produce a new result Even if an oracle we must consult

    For though $P=NP$ is ever open
    To solve it we're still hopin'

    And though exponential search we despise
    We're not afraid to relativize

    For we will never weary
    Of computer science theory

    Conference on Computational Complexity Theory
    March 1983
    Santa Barbara, California
    (This was precuror to the current COMPLEXITY THEORY conference.)

  7. Integral z-squared dz
    from 1 to the cube root of 3
    times the cosine
    of three pi over 9
    equals log of the cube root of 'e'.

  8. Haiku for P�l Erd?s

    "My brain is open,"
    Pali b�csi used to say
    "Let n be a prime..."

  9. E PERCY P

    Percy P was a mathematician
    whose "pureness" was never denied.
    But he found one day, to his sorrow,
    that his theorems had been applied!
    He had used all the standard precautions;
    his papers were pointedly dry!
    But his own esoteric notation
    had been solved by a physicist spy!

    The colloquium buzzed with the gossip;
    he could offer no valid excuse.
    Percy P was a traitor of traitors,
    for his work was of PRACTICAL USE!
    Nobody dared to defend him.
    Could it be that he'd plead the crime
    That his work was just then needed
    to effect quantization of time?

    Ignored when he joined conversations;
    one would think that he poisoned the air.
    And he felt on his way to the office -
    a new man might be in his chair.
    A committee was in operation,
    working twenty four hours a day,
    Deleting his name from the journals,
    and throwing his reprints away.

    He knew where his future was leading,
    no sense in prolonging the pain;
    He left with a handful of papers,
    and never was heard from again.
    So take heed all you mathematicians
    who pretend your endeavor is pure;
    Tho' your luck may hold for a decade,
    in the end you can never be sure.

    Note- this is not mine
    Its just in my files
    But I think its good
    Even though it goes on for miles


  10. The next four posts are from
    a course called CS270.
    They are not mine, but are
    in my files.

    These are from a course CS270.
    I don't know where the course was taught,
    But it sounds like fun
    For poet laureate I would have fought
    But all I can do is pun.

    There once were a tough set of problems;
    Many theorists tried hard to solve 'em.
    But all they e'er say
    Was, "Just give me a way
    To solve one and I'll have solved all of 'em."

    One clever young theorist said, "Gee!
    I'll define a new type called PCP."
    So he did some contemplation,
    Spent many days on calculation,
    And finally said, "Damn, it's no simpler than NP!"

    Nemanja Isailovic

  11. 3SAT is NP-complete,
    say complexity theory elite.
    But watch PCP -
    It covers NP,
    and randomized checkers are sweet.

    We randomly sample the proof
    but aren't so easy to spoof.
    Just make the proof bigger,
    and somehow we figure
    The storage won't go through the roof.

    Dennis Geels

  12. Twas the second day of May,
    the next to last day of class
    We sat pondering the final,
    and hoped we might pass.
    The door flew wide open
    and then proclaimed Satish:
    I've got complexity theory
    that I must unleash!"

    NP was defined
    and Cook's theorem was stated:
    "If you can solve 3SAT,
    this whole field's antiquated."
    And though it's a worthy pursuit,
    showing P =NP,
    I think I'll leave that task
    to someone smarter than me.

    But an approximate solution!
    Wouldn't that be great?
    You can't win them all,
    but how about seven of eight?
    This proved to be easy,
    we've got this one wired:
    Conditionally assign,
    and negate if required.

    But theorists are greedy--
    I'm a 3SAT whore,
    Surely it's no trouble
    to satisfy a few clauses more
    In pursuit of this goal,
    PCP was defined.
    (And I don't mean the drug,
    though it's just as harsh on the mind.)

    From PCP we proceed
    with some clever deduction
    and return to > 7/8 3-SAT
    via complexity reduction.
    So what's the big deal?
    What course have we charted?
    Turns out PCP = NP
    and we're back where we started.

    Mark Piloff

  13. Try it once:
    It isn't at all hard to say
    What we covered in class today
    Just flip a coin, and then sit tight
    While we check to see if it is right
    But the math gods are not playing fair
    Your clever tricks get you no where
    The same old curse, they do repeat
    It's doomed to be NP- complete.

    Then try again:
    It's really hard, I do repeat.
    It is what they call NP-complete.

    No, no, at last we will be free,
    I got a scheme called PCP.
    I know that you will quickly see,
    this problem is not NP, just P.
    Alas, you say, you don't agree?

    It's really hard, I must repeat.
    You can't escape NP-complete.

    Carol Hurwitz

  14. One should never forget the master piece Scooping the Loop Snooper to be found at:

  15. A shameless rewrite:

    A sudden blow: the zig-zag expanding still
    Above the staggering graph, her connectivity enhanced
    By the compact likeness, her path caught in its web,
    It holds her helpless degree upon his degree.

    How can those powered components reduce
    The increased degrees from its greedy push
    And how can the diameter, stretched and compressed,
    But grow beyond logarithmic size?

    A step in mid-stage engenders there
    The possible erasure of memory, an additive constant
    And L=SL.
    Being so caught up,
    So mastered by the brute random walk
    Did she put on its knowledge with its power
    Before the s-t connection found?

    - Homin

  16. I'd like to nominate Harry Mairson for his poetic "New Proofs of Old Theorems" available from:

    These "poems" are in the spirit of "Scooping the Loop Snooper".

    Luca Aceto

  17. **********************************
    * *
    * When a P-man loves an NP-woman *
    * *

    Been a happy deterministic man
    With a simple polynomial brain
    I contented myself with P problems,
    And always looked at NP with disdain.

    Fell in love with a polynomial woman,
    But with a non-deterministic wit,
    She said she would marry me,
    Only if I could show her that P=NP.

    I rushed to the library and studied,
    Asked Garey & Johnson for a hint to the truth,
    They said "this is quite a hard question",
    But none of them had a hint or a clue.

    Went to church and prayed to The Almighty,
    "Please Oh Lord, give me a lead the truth",
    "Don't waste your time son", a voice said laughing,
    For I myself on this wasted my youth.

    First oracle says you will marry
    Second one tells you you'll split
    Time moves, paths branch, results may vary
    Accept the state that finally fits

    If you finally marry this girl,
    And P=NP was true,
    What a Chaos: E-banking unsafe, Salesmen traveling cheaply!
    And mathematicians with nothing to do!

    If I grant your happiness,
    The precondition must be no witness,
    Even you both did nothing completely wrong,
    The punishments will be exponentially long.

    If you really want to marry this woman,
    Then randomness might be the only key,
    But please stop praying for an answer to me,
    For I could not decide on this P=NP!

  18. Not exactly a poem per se, but I did recently compose a rap ditty on an appropriate theme. (full version with hyperlinks is available here):

    Smash the polynomial hierarchy!

    I got the P! I got the NP!
    Yeah, you know me!
    I got coNP! I got BPP!
    Got them all, don't you see...

    Give me space! Give me logspace
    Gonna take my place, gonna play my ace,
    My AC0, gonna be a hero
    People think I'm so bizarre, see
    Gonna smash the polynomial hierarchy!

    My warring machine is a Turing machine,
    Recoil in horror y'all when you see my oracle
    And call for your momma, yeah, when you meet my automata
    Don't get mean, and don't you get snarky
    But I smashed the polynomial hierarchy

    Take any 3SAT, I spit it right back
    Word to my homies all, it's polynomial
    Me always in P-time, committing no crime
    I steal RSA like it was your car keys
    'Cause I smashed the polynomial hierarchy

    I got the P! It equals NP!
    I ain't on PCP!
    I got RPP, all of NPC!
    Million bucks be comin' to me

    Stephen Cook better rewrite the book
    C, L and R S attend my classes
    And Michael Sipser can start calling me sir
    Chris Papadimitriou can worship at my feet, yo
    ...don't you be calling me Aho, I ain't no ho...
    [repeat to fade]

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  20. I remember when I was at CTY F&M back in the mid-90s, our Contemporary Mathematics class thought we came up with the idea of Aleph-null bottles of beer on the wall... we even put in on our class shirt at the end of the summer ;)

  21. this is bases of the first couple of numbers of the Fibonacci Series.




    In two ways

    One is by degrees

    And the other is by its length

    Charlie O'Keeffe