haiku, humor, math, philosophy, science

Could a Long Fly Ball Hit a Flying Horse?

This is one of the few times I need to put some fiction into my blog, so I will change font for a little while.


Sometimes it is hard to be fair to Plato.  He is basically a good guy, but his politics are bullshit.  That “philosopher-king” notion is so self-serving.  Then there is that cave shtick.  Most people know that philosophers can be a little klutzy in everyday life.  We give them some slack and don’t make a big deal of it.  But Plato says the wannabe king has been looking at ultimate reality and absolute truth (and maybe a pretty girl sunbathing?) in bright daylight, so he stumbles in the cave that passes for the real world among ordinary Joes.  After his eyes adapt to the dim light, he will govern just fine.  No way.

Feeling mellow enough to ignore Plato’s politics, I invited him over to watch a baseball game on TV.  He was surprised that the pitcher threw a ball rather than a discus or a javelin, and that nobody was naked.  But he is a smart guy and soon understood the duel between the pitcher and the batter.  He noticed the (4 balls or 3 strikes) rule for ending an at-bat and said something about the ratio 4:3 in music by The Pythagoreans.  Are they a band I don’t know about?  He broke into a big grin when a batter sent a long fly ball arcing high above the field.  Tho he knows zip about physics, he hangs out with Euclid and knows a parabola when he sees one.

To Plato, the path of the fly ball in the grungy everyday world is an imperfect realization of the timeless perfection of an ideal parabolic form.  To me, the description of the path as a parabola is a good approximation that ignores air resistance and wind.  Ignoring those things is OK in an introductory physics course.  It is not OK in a baseball game.


Using the parabola to describe the fly ball oversimplifies a staggeringly complex everyday world that emerges from a staggeringly weird tarantella of elementary particles.  Our use of the parabola is fundamentally a story we tell ourselves.  Unlike the story of Pegasus the flying horse, it has been corrected, refined, and integrated with many other stories by scientific processes.  The notion of a flying horse is appealing (to people who have not been hit by a bird splat).  The parabolic story is ultimately more satisfying, as part of something gloriously predictive and useful (despite not being much help to the outfielder running to catch the fly ball).

Pegasus himself is as limited in time and space as the Pegasus story: an idea created by some people at some time and place, elaborated and spread by other people at other times and places.  The Pegasus story will vanish and its starring horse will vanish with it, if we succeed in our current efforts to make the Earth uninhabitable long before we can go elsewhere.  Would the parabolic story vanish also?  That is a question for another time.  The mathematical cast of characters in the parabolic story, on the other hand, is special.  Very special.

Plato’s Challenge
|Three plus two was five
|before any mind could know.
|Where do numbers live?

My snapshots of Plato and of Pegasus could not get thru the time warp, but I did some cropping of public domain images with good likenesses.

(BTW, the [Menu] button atop the vertical black bar reveals the widgets.)

10 thoughts on “Could a Long Fly Ball Hit a Flying Horse?

  1. What if there were a rider on Pegasus? How would that affect the parabola of a long fly ball hitting Peg? Hmmm. You must be the smartest poet here, Mr. Curmudgeon. I enjoy your intelligent wit even if I have to read your posts very carefully since I’m not all that smart! I am curious about your 50 haiku, and are you just stopping at that number? Will you be sharing more of them on a separate blog, perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the comment and for reading carefully enough to see the humor. I thought of putting in a winking emoji whenever I tried for dry/sly/wry wit, but I realized that everything I post would become too cluttered.

    Have forgotten the details, but Pegasus did have a rider named Bellerophon, who fell off. Maybe I can work clunking Bellerophon into a future update of this post, with a straight-faced assertion that the hit was scored as a ground-rule double because of fan interference.

    Tho I do not plan on stopping at 50, I have gotten into the habit of using 1 or 2 haiku to wrap up a post in this blog. My present and future haiku are waiting for their chances, and I write slowly. Tho willing to break the 5-7-5 Rule if I ever see a reason to, I may live long enough to push my streak of (5-7-5)-compliance to 56 or more. The cosmic significance 😉 of 56 is explained in an earlier post:


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating! I never knew about Bellephone, the rider. However, his name sounds familiar to me. Would like to see him not left out 🙂

    I do notice that you work your haiku into your posts, and they work well with your subjects. I was just wondering if you’d ever consider having another blog focusing solely on your poetry. Do you write other poems besides haiku?

    I love reading your posts and find them really very brilliant, and I do appreciate the humor, as well!
    I suggest you include the tag words, ‘haiku,’ ‘philosophy’ and ‘humor.’ Your category is only accessible within your blog and not in the general search of WP. Just a suggestion, because I don’t believe you’re reaching as many readers as you should be.
    Cheers! Rose

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the suggestion about using more haiku/humor/philosophy tags, and for a much more helpful take on the category/tag distinction than the platitudes in the WordPress support pages. I am still finding my way around in the blogosphere.

      I just finished ensuring that all of my posts have haiku and humor tags, and that most of them have philosophy tags. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

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