enlightenment, grammar, history, humor, language, politics, science

Writing Well – Part 1

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Introduction

Here are links to all posts in this project of reviewing and supplementing the splendid book

The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.

  1. Introduction
    What does the rise of “proper” English have in common with a physics conundrum about gravity?
  2. Babies, Names, and Snobs
    We name words by wrapping them in square brackets to avoid overloading more common conventions.
  3. Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, and ????
    We add a new ISM to the familiar duo of attitudes toward English language usage: readabilism.
  4. Why is English Spelling Such a Mess?
    An insight into the difficulty of spelling reform has wide-ranging significance, far beyond spelling.
  5. Ambiguity Sucks!
    Ambiguity is almost always at least a little harmful to clear communication. It can be disastrous.
  6. What is the Point of Punctuation?
    Careful punctuation helps avoid unwanted ambiguity.
  7. Yogi Berra’s Paradox
    Sometimes bad English is good English that’s good because it’s bad.
  8. Blood & Gold End This Series
    Apart from a concern about the examples on 2 late pages in the book, I could applaud those pages until my hands bleed.

lex-dilem_jack-lynch
Writing well ain’t easy.  If the word “ain’t” in the previous sentence raised hackles, U really need to read The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.  If not?  Read it anyway.  This post starts a series of posts that includes a glowing review of the book, with my own additions and amplifications for some points (and a few mild disagreements).

One of the few complaints I have about the book is that the title is too narrow.  Yes, the book considers lexicography.  It also considers grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vulgarisms.  In just 276 well-written pages (not counting source notes and such), it considers all these things with serious historical scholarship and considerable humor (mostly dry; sometimes LOL).

Why a series of posts?  Doing justice to the scope of the book in a single post would be tough unless what I wrote was only a book review, and the single post might still be quite long.  Better to write a separate post of moderate length on each of several themes in the book, adding something worthwhile to each.  In between posts in this Writing Well series, I can post on other topics.  If I think of yet another way that the sane and decent people in the USA might resist the Age of Trumpery, I want to interrupt the series rather than interrupt work on a single humongous draft.

Can a noncontiguous series work?  Across the Room and Into the Fire is working quite well for Óglach, with Part 6 (out of a projected 7) posted as of this writing.

Example 1.1: Recency of “Proper” English


Example numbers in this series have the form (part number).(number within the part), just in case I want to refer to an example in one part when writing up another part.

The following quote from page 10 of the book poses a conundrum that cries out for the kind of historical investigation exemplified by the book.

For just one third of 1 percent of the history of language in general, and for just 20 percent of the history of our own language, have we had to go to school to study the language we already speak.

When something is that strange, asking how the Hell it happened is not just idle curiosity.  It might lead to major insights.  Here is something similarly strange in physics.

For every chunk of matter in the entire universe (no matter what it is made of), the gravitational mass is exactly the same as the inertial mass.

For everything we can get our hands on, the equality of the 2 kinds of mass has been verified to more decimal places than I can count on my fingers.  Why is gravity like this?  Isaac Newton had no idea at all.  His theory of gravity could use this fact but could not explain it.  Early in the previous century, many physicists were uneasy about this apparent cosmic coincidence.  They were also uneasy about a piddling tiny difference between how Mercury orbited the sun and how Newton’s theory predicted it would orbit the sun.

One of the uneasy physicists was Albert Einstein, whose more elaborate theory of gravity gave an elegant explanation of the equality of the 2 kinds of mass and yielded predictions that were slightly different from Newton’s.  When Einstein published his theory in 1916, the only known differences were just barely measurable by those who cared about nerdy stuff like the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit.  Today, we know of many other differences.  Thanks to our knowledge of some of them, your GPS is more than just an expensive paperweight.

Acknowledgements


Jack Lynch wrote the book that anchors this series.  The historical perspective helped me refine my own views.  Want to see many examples of clear writing that is balanced and nuanced w/o being wishy-washy?  Read the book.

Óglach is among the bloggers who demonstrate that good writing can thrive in the blogosphere.   Thanking all those I know would take up too much space and omit those I do not know, but I must thank him for the inspiration to try a noncontiguous series.

Miriam Sargon taught the AP English class that I took in my senior year of high school.  (My post on lexicography will say a little more about that class.)  Back in the 1962/1963 academic year, well-informed people could still believe that Enlightenment values were winning (albeit slowly and with many setbacks).  She did not preach those values; she exemplified them.

humor, politics

Valentine for DT

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I hope that nobody will object to my poetry in the style of greeting card doggerel.  Trump does not deserve better anyway.

devil-heart

Valentine for DT

U will swindle the workers and sully the skies.
U will suck up to Putin and tweet vicious lies.
Some states are red and some states are blue.
For some years of Hell they are all stuck with U.
(reblog), humor, politics

Hit Him Where It Hurts

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Tho worthwhile, fact checking and well-deserved ridicule were not enough to keep Trump out of the White House.  I doubt that the current vogue for demonstrations and calls for impeachment will accomplish much either . While Trump does deserve to be impeached and convicted, it will not happen unless the 2018 elections flip Congress.  Pence as POTUS would push the same vile agenda anyway, and he might be even more effective by being less abrasive.  Hollering for impeachment is a distraction.

Boycotts might do some real good.  I thank Kurt, both for publicizing the boycott link and for introducing it so humorously.  The sane people will need their sense of humor to stay sane over the long and nasty years ahead.

baseball, enlightenment, humor, philosophy, politics, quote, riff

Riff on a Yogi Berra Quote

Some of the many humorous quotes (mis)attributed to Yogi Berra may be trenchant expressions of genuine wisdom, not just funny malapropisms.  Consider Yogi Berra’s Law.

yogi-berra-1

In Yogi Berra’s Washington Post obituary, the subtitle “American philosopher” is well-chosen.  While some of the quotes attributed (or misattributed) to Yogi Berra may just be funny malapropisms, some strike me as quirky ways to say something important, akin to Zen koans.  One of his gems is widely applicable and especially relevant to a world on the brink of ecological and/or political collapse.  It deserves a special name.  It is also so widely quoted that 2 versions are common, as indicated by { | } below:

Yogi Berra’s Law
{ The game | It } ain’t over til it’s over.

Yes, the original context was baseball.  With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning, the home team may be trailing.  Yogi rightly admonishes both the home team (to resist despair) and the visitors (to resist complacency).  A lot can still happen with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning.  I prefer the shorter version of the law because it is more explicit about the law’s generality.  “It” could be almost anyhthing.

My current context for heeding Yogi Berra’s Law is the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump as POTUS.  At best, this event marks the start of 4 long and nasty years in the US.  At worst, this event might combine with trends elsewhere (in China, Europe, and Russia) to start a new Dark Age.  Considering the worst case is prudent, not alarmist.

Mindless repetition of platitudes like

  • It can’t happen here.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • It is always darkest just before the dawn.

is no substitute for the eternal vigilance that Jefferson said is the price of liberty.  (There are other prices.)  I resist the complacency of those platitudes; I also resist despair and continue (in my own small way) to be a citizen rather than just a complainer.

In a late inning in the biggest game of my lifetime, the Enlightenment is trailing.  That sucks.  But 2+3 is still 5 and Yogi Berra’s Law is still true.
(reblog), humor, politics

Xmas in Trumpistan

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Tho 12-25 has come and gone, the traditional 12 days of Xmas run to 01-06.  So it is not too late to post an illustrated topical parody of a classic Xmas carol.  I cannot draw my way out of a paper bag, but Poet Rummager can draw.  She is also a fine creative writer (with an impish and sometimes dark sense of humor) and a fun collaborator.

With more control than just clicking the [Reblog] button would provide, this post is what amounts to a reblog of a recent collaboration.

Originally posted on Slasher Monster:

moneydemons

Hark, the snake oil angels sing!

Russia’s tsar rides on our king.

Bullshit here and beefcake there –

bovine voters everywhere.

Joyful greedheads make stocks rise –

Rust Belt workers fall for lies.

Hark, the snake oil angels sing!

Russia’s tsar rides on our king.

trumppig


Illustrations by Poet Rummager

Poem written by Mellow Curmudgeon

View original

history, humor, politics

After 202+4 Years

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In 1814,

the British Royal Navy bombards the fort guarding Baltimore’s harbor with state-of-the-art artillery.  The attack inspires a mediocre poem that is just barely singable (if U pretend that “yeh-et” is a word) to the tune of a British drinking song.  The Brits eventually get a consolation prize for the failure of the seige of Baltimore, when their song becomes our national anthem (but with lyrics from the poem, not the pubs).

On the morning of Election Day in 2016,

pink-rebel-386x342

I find that the Pink Rebel (a Xmas cactus that blooms when it damn well pleases, and never at Xmas) has a nice blossom.  I take that to be a good omen. Good omens have been in short supply recently, as the pseudoconservative coalition of bigots and plutocrats bombards a wobbly electoral process with state-of-the-art ratcrap, propelled by dark money and deep resentments.  The pseudoconservatives hope for veto-proof majorities in Congress as a consolation prize, if they cannot install a protofascist buffoon as President.

My local polling place is crowded.  The people who run it have finally found an efficient way to arrange all the stuff that must be crammed into a tiny room in the firehouse: a sign-in table, little booths for marking the ballots, and a machine to scan the ballots and keep them secure in case a recount is needed.  I have finally remembered to remove my ballot from the privacy sleeve before feeding it to the scanner.  (It is only in theory that the scanner can grab the ballot by an edge protruding from the sleeve.)  The scanner accepts the naked ballot w/o fuss.  Walking back to my car after an unexpectedly smooth and quick process, I tear up a little.

I have just now experienced an America that is calm and polite and competent.  For how long?

On the morning after Election Day in 2016,

sad-flag-386x527
I rise with the dawn’s early light and go online to see the results for races that were not foregone conclusions.  Mostly vomit-worthy, with a few consolations in the Senate.  The Dems will keep the NV seat that Reid is leaving.  The new Dem for IL is a combat veteran who knows the difference between patriotism and posturing; a seat for NH also flipped.  Maybe filibusters can keep the pseudoconservatives from passing the very worst things on their wishlist.

For at least the next 4 years, I expect that American politics will not be calm and polite and competent.  I hope I am wrong in this prediction, and not wrong merely because of surrender by those who oppose the pseudoconservative agenda.

Remember Mitch McConnell’s declaration (soon after the 2008 election) that preventing a 2nd term for Obama would have his top priority?  I was angered by that commitment to reflexive opposition (regardless of the cost to the nation) to whatever Obama might propose.  So I will try to keep an open mind.  It is conceivable that Trump will surprise everybody (even himself) by growing quickly and well into his awesome new responsibilities.  But not at all likely.

What is likely?  Zombie economics and accelerating climate change will lead to global suffering comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930-s.  Less likely (but still far from being alarmist hype) is the possibility of descent into thinly veiled fascism.

Yes, our traditions of liberal democracy are stronger than those of the Weimar Republic in 1932 and 1933.  The question is not whether our traditions are stronger than Weimar’s but whether they are still strong enough to withstand escalating bombardment from pseudoconservatives who have honed expertise at selective vote suppression.  The land of the free has its share of people with authoritarian personalities and deep resentments, often legitimate but exagerrated or misdirected.  As did Germany in the 1930-s.

The Royal Navy bombardment in 1814 was 202 years ago.  After the imminent 4 years of intensified pseudoconservative bombardment, will our flag be still there?

s-s-b-386x342.jpg
Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian Institution

happy-flag-386x349

(reblog), politics

A disappointing end, but we must come together

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I am slowly working on my own idiosyncratic response to the US Election Debacle of 2016. Meanwhile, I would like to reblog 2 very different responses that both deserve wide attention. Here is one of them.

musingsofanoldfart

The outcome of the Presidential election is highly disappointing and somewhat surprising. Donald Trump should be congratulated for speaking to an America that felt neglected. They voiced their votes in a rather loud way.

We should come together around what binds us, not what divides us. There will be plenty of time to digest what went wrong in the Hillary Clinton campaign. I will leave that for future posts and offer comments where I can.

For now, we should wish our new President in January well and encourage him to be a President for all Americans. And, as we would do with any President, let’s civilly speak our mind, as that is what makes our country great, the right to question our leaders.

View original post

(reblog), humor, politics

Congratulations!

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I am slowly working on my own idiosyncratic response to the US Election Debacle of 2016. Meanwhile, I would like to reblog 2 very different responses that both deserve wide attention. Here is one of them.

Update 2017-10-16

Oops, the post reblogged here was from a blog that has since been deleted.  It showed a photo of Donald Trump with clown makeup and a silly grin.  Below the photo was some darkly humorous poetry to the effect that he would trash our little blue planet.

Now I have another reason to prefer getting the net effect of a reblog by manually excerpting from a post and adding my remarks separately (both in the comments section of the original post and in my reblog).  It is more work, but I have more control and will not be left hanging if the original post disappears.

 

politics

Self Expression or Civic Participation?

 

The point of voting is not self expression.  The point is to participate in choosing the driver of a bus we all must ride in.  The 2016 POTUS election was a choice between 2 bad drivers, and the winner was much worse than the loser.

Rightly disgusted with the choices offered by the major parties in the 2016 POTUS election, many voters abstained or voted 3rd party.  Being sympathetic to both Green and Libertarian concerns (and angry that those concerns got so little attention in the inane debates), I agree that there is something to be said for voting 3rd party in the uncontested states that are safely blue or red.  A minor party that crosses the 5% threshold in the popular vote will get ballot access and more attention in the next election.

What about the contested states?

Like it or not, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the only candidates who could have become the next President.  Like it or not, abstentions and 3rd party votes in contested states could have tipped them from Clinton to Trump.  Like it or not, tipping contested states could have tipped the Electoral College from Clinton to Trump (or even thrown the decision into the House of Representatives, which would have chosen Trump).

So what?  Should I not vote my conscience, regardless of where I live?  No!

The point of voting is not self expression.  The point is to participate in choosing the driver of a bus we all must ride in.  The 2016 POTUS election was a choice between 2 bad drivers.  One of them had a record that includes moving violations and at-fault collisions, but not DWI or total losses.  The other was (and still is) an intoxicated newbie seething with road rage.

buscrash

Image cropped from the Seattle Times

Among the many posts on many blogs that deal with this election, U can read more with independent and unusual angles in Keith’s blog as well as here.

enlightenment, humor, politics

Fairness

Like the other Enlightenment values (liberty; rationality; tolerance), fairness is always under attack.  Fairness differs in that it is much harder to determine whether we have it.
(BTW, the [Menu] button atop the vertical black bar reveals the widgets.)

If lumping fairness with (liberty; rationality; tolerance) sounds odd, please note that fairness to me is subtler than crude egalitarianism.  Credit where credit is due.  Ability rather than ancestry as qualification for high office.  Opportunity for upward mobility.  Respect for differing priorities.  Willingness to forego getting all I want so that everybody has a shot at getting all they need, w/o trying to impose the same wants/needs categories on everybody.david-goliath-trash-talking

Downloaded from Clipart Kid, the image of David and Goliath trash talking illustrates a subtlety of fairness.  It may look unfair that Goliath is the only one with armor and heavy weapons.  Should David have them too?  No, he would still be a scrawny youth, just encumbered by all that stuff.  Let David have what suits David’s (not Goliath’s) skills and will not interfere with Plan B:

If my shots miss, run like Hell!

Deciding what is fair and then doing it can be a lot of work, as the endless stream of affirmative action lawsuits illustrates.  Dunno how that story will end.  I do know a true story about the difficulties of being fair in the real world that has a happy ending.  I blogged about it in 2015, before I had a responsive theme.  My post would have been unintelligible to anybody surfing on a phone or tablet (Harrumph!) rather than a real computer.  Now that I have a responsive theme and a renewed urge to defend Enlightenment values (thanks to the current dismal state of US politics), I have revised that post in many small ways, partly to make it more explicit about fairness.  The WordPress previewer assures me that it is indeed intelligible on all 3 platforms.  Here is the link:

Moving the Earth

(reblog), politics

An open letter to the Aetna CEO

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The post reblogged here is a welcome reminder that there are still some thoughtful and pragmatic people in the US. Tho seriously flawed in many ways, the ACA is an improvement over what came before. The flaws can be fixed if the pols will stop posturing for a while.

musingsofanoldfart

Dear Mark T. Bertolini, Chairman and CEO, Aetna,

As a former actuary, benefits consultant, benefits manager, and a business and personal client of Aetna, I recognize fully the complexity of healthcare delivery and insurance in the US. I understand the meaning of claims loss ratios and the need for Aetna to earn a profit for its shareholders.

With this context, I ask that you please reconsider pulling Aetna out of the Healthcare exchanges in North Carolina and other states. I became an Aetna customer again when Aetna purchased the business of Coventry and integrated the two companies into the Aetna network. On the whole, our service has been good and we appreciate your negotiated discounts with Carolinas Medical Center and its doctor network. Many insureds do not realize the value of these discounts that must be paid by uninsureds.

The Affordable Care Act is still in its early childhood, but…

View original post 271 more words

humor, politics

How to Visualize Veracity

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As John Adams noted long ago, facts are stubborn things.  So are misconceptions.  Tossing dull little facts against a seductively simple misconception is like tossing pebbles against a window.  To break the window, U must organize the pebbles into something like a chunk of concrete.

One way to organize facts is to create a clear and colorful visualization that sums up the take-away.  One kind of visualization is a bar chart where all the big bars have the same length but are divided into little bars of various lengths.  Perhaps a green little bar shows the percentage of my daily protein that comes from breakfast, while yellow and red little bars show the percentages that come from lunch and dinner.  Another big bar shows those 3 percentages for somebody else.  This kind of bar chart can be very helpful when there are more kinds of little bar than just breakfast/lunch/dinner, if the chart marker chooses colors well.

An excellent example of this kind of bar chart is in a Daily Kos post by Auriandra dated 2016-10-05.  The whole post is a good read; the chart is shown below, in a cropped screenshot.

politifact_2016-09-29

Contrary to what many cartoonists and progressive purists (not to mention right-wingers) proclaim, Hillary Clinton is relatively truthful, among the pols considered.  (None of them deserve high marks by the standards of scientific research or testimony under oath.)  By far the least truthful is Donald Trump.

If voters eventually notice and heed the veracity difference between Clinton/Kaine and Trump/Pence, the loss will leave Trump angry at the fact checkers.  How can someone with his skillset (blustering; lying; swindling) get back at them?  He could try for yet another Pants-on-Fire rating, with a lie about the fermentation capabilities of his microbiome.

Revenge for Fact Checking
|Donald Trump could say
|his farts and his shit smell like
|warm cinnamon rolls.

 

(reblog), history, humor, politics

Tough Lessons

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Learning from history is tough, even for those who remember it.   Parallels are never exact.  The importance of each difference between then and now is a judgement call.   Consider a darkly hilarious cartoon by Jen Sorensen:

Mandatory Birthing Center

Yes, the resemblance of the armed guard to a Nazi storm trooper is as subtle as a sledge hammer.   Fine by me.   Maybe it will overcome the American propensity for historical amnesia and wishful thinking.

Much to my dismay, Hillary Clinton is the only Trump opponent who might conceivably be elected.   The progressive purists who disdain supporting Clinton are confident that something like what happened in Germany in 1932 and 1933 could not happen here and now, with a Trump victory.   Yes, our traditions of liberal democracy are stronger than those of the Weimar Republic.   The pertinent question is not whether our traditions are stronger but whether they are still strong enough, after years of relentless assault from the pseudoconservative coalition of bigots and plutocrats that controls staggering amounts of dark money and has already taken over the GOP.   Dammit, the answer is not obvious.

(reblog), history, politics

Loyalty

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The failure of Congress to renew the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program endangers people who served as translators for US troops in Afghanistan.   Enduring the same dangers and hardships as the troops, the translators sometimes fought alongside them.   Links to details will follow shortly.

This is not about whether the war in Afghanistan (or any war) was justified.   This is about doing right by good people who put their lives on the line but are being abandoned by lazy pols.

As a thoughtful video (under 3 minutes) produced by No One Left Behind points out, this is one of those extremely rare situations where it would be fairly easy to act both honorably and in our own self-interest, if only Congress would listen to a few combat veterans in its own ranks.

The rest of this post is excerpted from e-mail about the visa crisis that I received 2016-09-19 from No One Left Behind.   There are plenty of links to details in the excerpt.

˙ ˙ ˙

Congress left Washington, DC at the end of last week having failed to hold a vote on the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.   As a result of their unconscionable inaction, the State Department will run out of visas on 1 October 2016 (the start of the new fiscal year).   The current backlog of visas is roughly 10,000 applicants (when one includes family, we estimate the true number of applicants is 35,000+).  Thanks to Congress, our country will now break its promise to our Afghan translators and other wartime allies – who will continue to wait in limbo, in hiding, afraid that any moment might be the one where the Taliban or ISIS’s death squads finally find them.  How many will die before Congress does their job (votes to renew the program and authorize and issue more visas to the State Department) and honors our nation’s promise?

To help highlight the national security implications of this issue and the importance of protecting the honor of the American military, veterans, and credibility, we organized a Letter to Congress, which we delivered on 6 September 2016.   Hundreds of thousands of veterans, representing every branch of service in every American conflict dating back to World War II joined Medal of Honor recipients from Vietnam to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, former Chairmen and members of the Joint Chiefs, numerous wartime commanders, and other general and flag officers in adding their signatures to the letter.

˙ ˙ ˙ This past weekend, the [Wall Street] Journal joined the New York Times and the Washington Post in urging the Congress to renew and properly fund the program – the nation’s three leading newspapers are rarely this unified on matters of policy.

This is the 11th hour.  The State Department will run out of visas in 11 days.  Unless we build a movement and demand Congress renew the program immediately, it will likely die an unceremonious death, lost as an obscure program that got drowned out by the intense rhetoric of the 2016 election.

Help us prevent this tragedy by doing two things:

˙ ˙ ˙
© No One Left Behind
P.O. Box 3641, Merrifield, VA 22116
Tax ID: 47-125-1659http://nooneleft.org/  |  info@nooneleft.org

Update [2016-09-20]

If U have not already done so, please contact your Senators and Representatives.

I dislike phones and try to be much less scathing when communicating to pols rather than about them, so I used the e-mail links on my legislators’ web pages to send the following message.

General topic:  Immigration | National Security

Specific topic:  Afghan Special Immigrant Visas

Message text:

The failure of Congress to renew the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program endangers people who served as translators for US troops in Afghanistan.   Enduring the same dangers and hardships as the troops, the translators sometimes fought alongside them.  This is one of those extremely rare situations where it would be fairly easy to act both honorably and in our own self-interest, if only Congress would listen to a few combat veterans in its own ranks and do right by good people who put their lives on the line but are being abandoned.

haiku, humor, math, politics

Bhaskara for President!

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Fooey.  He has hardly any name recognition, was not born a US citizen, and has been dead for centuries.  Being more reality-oriented than those who handed Donald Trump the job, I cannot seriously promote Bhaskara.  What a pity.

Who’s Bhaskara?  We will get to that question shortly.  First, consider whatever gadget U are using to read this post.  It depends on many things, discovered over many years by many people who (unlike many pols) preferred building up to tearing down.  With many steps omitted (and “depends on” abbreviated to ), a few of those dependencies go like this:

Your Gadget quantum physics coordinate systems Pythagoras’ Theorem

Back in high school, Pythagoras’ Theorem may have seemed like a little fact about right triangles that may have been mildly interesting but did not deserve the effort of slogging thru the book’s tedious proof.  I could read the proof line by line, observe that it was valid, and be glad that I never needed to retrieve it for a test.  Hardly anybody could remember it for more than a few minutes.

Pythagoras’ Theorem turned out to be essential to blogging (and much else), so it would be nice to have a proof that mere mortals could remember, appreciate, and be inspired by.  Enter Bhaskara, 1114-1185.

Bhaskara replaced the usual picture (of 3 squares glued to the sides of 1 triangle) with a picture of 4 copies of the same triangle, arranged to form a big square with a little square inside it:

Pythagoras
(a+b
=
4 · ( ½ · a · b) + c²

The proof is sometimes displayed more tersely, with just the figure.  I prefer to write out a little algebra (while not belaboring why the angles do add up the way the figure suggests).  Tho he did not have modern notation, Bhaskara did have an elegant way to provide more detail for the mathematically fastidious.  He displayed another figure that also puts the 4 copies of the triangle inside a big square with sides a+b.  In the other figure, the area not covered by copies of the triangle amounts to a²+b² because it consists of 2 small squares.  But the not-covered area amounts to c² in the figure displayed above, so we can conclude that

  a²+b²= c²

w/o bothering with algebra and how to compute areas of right triangles.  We just need to bother with drawing both figures.  Wanna try your hand at drawing the other figure?  U can find the answer by following the link provided by Sieglinglungenlied in the comment section.

Googling reveals some variation in what is attributed to Bhaskara. The 1-figure proof I displayed appears in several places (sometimes attributed to Bhaskara and sometimes w/o attribution).  A similar 1-figure proof is commonly attributed to Bhaskara, with a big square of length c.  The 2-figure version that avoids algebra is attributed to Bhaskara in Math in 100 Key Breakthroughs, a nicely illustrated book by Richard Elwes.  Historical accuracy is not crucial at the moment, so I went with the best story w/o worrying about who got it right.

OK, I admit that having written a proof of mind-blowing elegance does not really qualify Bhaskara to be POTUS.  Too bad that many people think mind-blowing arrogance can hack it.

Clicking on the “politics” category or tag in this post will display all my uses of acidic humor to cope with the current state of US politics.  But acids are corrosive.  Sometimes, I forgo acid and contemplate some of the enduring (so far) glories of modern Western civilization, one of which is that it is not exclusively Western.  In particular, we got some elegant math from India and some elegant poetry forms from Japan.

One Way to Stay Sane in the Age of Trumpery
|Cherish all that is
|true and good and beautiful
|(like Bhaskara’s proof).

 

haiku, humor, politics

Calliope and Geology

The juxtaposition in my title is weird, but Calliope is unfazed.  After all, she is the ancient Greek muse of eloquence, epic poetry, and circus music.
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calliope

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As American politics in 2016 illustrates, Calliope’s portfolio is not as weird as I would wish.  Neither is my title.

Stale Bread Can Wait
|My muse is stingy (when implored)
|or really bitchy (when ignored).
|When I want to sing of croutons
|(but her fancy turns to plutons),
|I have just one way to go:
|with the mighty magma flow.

As I discovered long ago when I tried to read an English translation of Goethe’s Faust, poetry in couplets tends to sound silly even when it is dead serious.  Now that I have had my little respite from blank verse in haiku form, maybe I should go back to solemn austerity.  Maybe.

What the World Needs
|More silliness from
|those who know they are silly;
|less from the others.