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Fun with words!! Poe as Pi!

I finished Sex, Drugs, Einstein, & Elves by Clifford A. Pickover. It is probably one of the weirdest books I've ever read. I liked parts of it - anything dealing with wordplay, vocabulary, and Proust. I suppose part of my discontent was that I bought it under the misconception it was a physics book. While he is a physicist, the book is more about DMT hallucinations and Proust. (Not to say Proust was a drug user, these just appear to be two of Pickover's favorite topics.) Most of the reviews were positive, but I found several whose reviews agreed with me. I found it alternating between interesting and tedious, found the author to be egotistical and self-referential, but found I loved the wandering, memoir-like style of stream-of-consciousness writing.

Here's the start of my favorite review on the book: "David Katzman rated it: 2 Stars. Drugs, me, me, me, Proust, me, me, I love me, and more me. Ps. Technology=God. Did I mention, me? // Like a homeless Alzheimer’s patient, Sex, Drugs, Einstein, & Elves meanders over so much terrain that writing a review is a bit like tracking the trajectory of every pellet in a shotgun blast. It’s filled with the kind of cocktail party chatter you might use to pick up a Mensa member at their convention after-party. He spends a paragraph on an idea and then moves on without staking ou...more at goodreads.com

My favorite portion of the book, on page 63 he talks about the Oulipo, a group of writers and mathematicians who play with constrained writing. He gave Mike Keith's version of The Raven encoded as pi. Each word in the poem corresponds to a digit, going to the first 740 decimals.

3.1415926535897932384626433832795?288419716

Poe, E.
"Near a Raven"
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary.
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap -- the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber's antedoor.
"This," I whispered quietly, "I ignore."


Also, as I was searching for pi's numbers I found this really cool website that just sings pi.

And, yes, it was sheer laziness of me to try to google pi as opposed to counting the numbers in each of the words of the poem. I am lazy. What of it?

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
mcamason
Jul. 6th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
That, I believe (my audio seems to be sodomized), is a kate bush song, named "pi" (go figure)that is being used as the background for that ytmnd page.

The Ytmnd phenomenon itself is another unusual sociological... thingie.

/tangent
madladyred
Jul. 6th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Accuracy over Artistry my Arse
When you mentioned Kate Bush, it triggered a hazy memory about reading in one of Simon Singh's newsletters about demanding a singer named Katie rewrite her song to give a more accurate age of the universe. As much as I love him, it bugged me that he was so smug and proud over his demands. I can kind of see his point of view that he loves science so much that it offends him greatly to see misinformation presented to the public, but as an occasional poet, I think it's okay to take a bit of poetic license for rhyme scheme. And I can't stand smugness. Anyway, when you said Kate Bush I did a google search to see if it was the same singer. It wasn't, but I did find a hit where Simon mentions a flaw in Kate Bush's song about Pi. He didn't find this flaw, he's only reporting what someone else told him.

This article is about him demanding more accuracy in Christmas carols (LOL!) but it mentions Kate Bush: The Telegraph/Curse of a festive pedant

Anyway, thanks for identifying the song!!! I do not think I've heard anything by her. (?or have you shown me and I forgot?) Regardless, I definitely need to listen to more of her music. She sounds like someone I would very much like. :)

EDIT::I TOTALLY REWROTE THAT FIRST PARAGRAPH!

Edited at 2009-07-06 02:34 am (UTC)
mcamason
Jul. 6th, 2009 02:39 am (UTC)
Re: Accuracy over Artistry my Arse
Huh! KaTe is one of those essential bohemians I'll have to introduce you to more of. She's just... an awesome chick who has been singing for ages now. I think Monkeys knows some of her work.

And agreed: poetry is no place to demand utter scientific accuracy! I may read some of this Singh's stuff just to enjoy getting irritated at him.
madladyred
Jul. 6th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
Re: Accuracy over Artistry my Arse
As far as books, I ::highly:: recommend Fermat's Enigma. It is probably my favorite math book of all the ones I've read. It's actually more about mathematicians than about math, but it inspired me to seek out more books on mathematics. I bought it when I saw Singh's CSpan Book TV lecture on Big Bang - one of my favoritest science lectures ever. It's everything a lecture should be, darn it. I fell totally in love with him. His web site was great, too. I got Fermat's Enigma and the Code Book while waiting on the American release of Big Bang in paperback, and fell deeper in love with him from Fermat. Code book was good, too. I briefly toyed with cryptology afterwards. But it was not as good as Fermat and was much longer.

Monkeys, Toaster, Droid, and Mike B rode with me to Emory University to see him give his lecture in person. Toast, Droid, and I bought copies of Big Bang and got them autographed. :) I got to shake his hand!!!

Oh, and at one point I wrote him a fan email. He responded on Valentines day, it just so happened, which was awesome.

But he does get a bit vehement in his opinions and his attacks bother me because my valentine would not do such things! LOL! Right now he's being sued by chiropractors! For libel, I think. He's also gone after alternative medicines in general and he totally flipped over the movie Wh@t the Bleep Do We Know?!?!? YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE MOLECULAR STRUCTURE OF WATER BY WRITING ON THE PLASTIC BOTTLES BY GUM!! He also has some sort of musical with Richard Dawkins that I think was put out around Christmas time... one can only imagine the content. :)

So - I would ask you somehow manage to watch the Big Bang lecture and read Fermat's Enigma (American title) before delving into his other writings so that you start off with a positive outlook!!!
mcamason
Jul. 6th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Re: Accuracy over Artistry my Arse
I will keep an open mind, then. I had problems with the bleepy movie for similar reasons (if his are anything like Dawkins' and other scientists' viewpoints on that movie).

There are.. gradations of fluffy non-science, in my opinion. I would not go to a chiropracter for, say, Crohn's disease or any of the cancers, but if my legs and back are aching, a chiropractor could help.

Again, I'll keep an open mind in the same way I do for Dawkins, who I admire greatly but feel can be a total asshole at times.

The way it goes when you're constantly attacked by fundamentalists, I guess. you lose some of the ability to discern and express nuances in the face of the rampant irrationality. "Fighting Monsters" and all that.

*makes notes of book titles*

And Singh's blog does indicate a certain self-awareness of his excessive pedantry, at least from the post you linked to. :)
madladyred
Jul. 6th, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
Re: Accuracy over Artistry my Arse
I loved the idea of writing on water bottles. I even did that back when I drank a lot of water. I wrote character traits I wish I possessed. But I didn't think it actually *did* anything to the water. i just loved the romantic notion of it and seeing the words on the bottles made me more aware of the person I wanted to be. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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