The March 2007 issue of Notices of the American Mathematical Society is out. In it we find:
- Fascinating conversations with three of the four Fields medalists (guess which one declined to be interviewed?)
- An obituary of George Dantzig (linear programming pioneer), which I found incredibly frustrating for two reasons. First, the article repeatedly sidesteps the most interesting questions about Dantzig’s career: what were those open problems that he solved mistaking them for homework exercises? What impact did his WWII work actually have? Second, just as nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, so nothing in optimization makes sense except in the light of computational complexity — a topic this 19-page article somehow assiduously avoids.
- A poem by Bill Parry (1934-2006), which stirred my soul as Walt Whitman never did back in 11th-grade English, and which I here reproduce in its entirety.
As he cleaned the board,
chalk-dust rose like parched mist.
A dry profession, he mused as morosely
they shuffled settling tier upon tier.
Now, almost half-way through the course,
(coughs, yawns, and automatic writing)
the theorem is ready.
Moving to the crucial point,
the sly unconventional twist,
a quiver springs his voice and breast;
soon the gambit will appear
opposed to what’s expected.
The ploy will snip one strand
the entire skein sloughing to the ground.
His head turns sympathetically
from board to class.
They copy copiously.
But two, perhaps three pause and frown,
wonder will this go through,
questioning this entanglement
– yet they nod encouragement.
Then the final crux; the ropes relax and fall.
His reward: two smile, maybe three,
and one is visibly moved.
Q.E.D., the theorem is proved.
This was his sole intent.
Leaving the symbols on the board
he departs with a swagger of achievement.