Archive for April, 2008

A wonderful, powerful exposition on what mathematics really is, and a scathing, unfortunately accurate criticism of the way its being taught today (Linked from the Mathematical Association of America):

A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart.

Just to give you a taste of the essay:



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star light, star bright

Stars’ light

So cold

Stars’ bright

So old

Mothers of us all




Believe it or not, the above poem was written by a computer. At least, that’s what BBC Radio 4’s Paul Hamilton tells us on his poetry programme, “Poet’s Tree”.

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a thirsty lion begs

The latest entry on God Plays Dice led me to the Internet Anagram Server , where I found this interesting correspondence (nearly a decade ago!) about a book that purports to prove that Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper by finding (get this) anagrams in his poems.

The correspondence summarises the book neatly:

The book proceeds from the following logic. Lewis Carroll loved anagrams. Anagrams reveal deep truths. The lines in Carroll’s poetry can be formed into anagrams. Some of these anagrams strike certain crackpots as incriminating. Ergo, Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper.

(did i see the word “logic” in there?)

But it gets better.

In a wonderful example of answering a fool according to his own folly,

[Two readers of a magazine that featured the book] write: “The first paragraph of [Wallace’s] article contains a grisly confession.”

They rearrange the letters of:

This is my story of Jack the Ripper, the man behind Britain’s worst unsolved murders. It is a story that points to the unlikeliest of suspects: a man who wrote children’s stories. That man is Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, author of such beloved books as Alice in Wonderland.

and arrive at:

The truth is this: I, Richard Wallace, stabbed and killed a muted Nicole Brown in cold blood, severing her throat with my trusty shiv’s strokes. I set up Orenthal James Simpson, who is utterly innocent of this murder. P.S. I also wrote Shakespeare’s sonnets, and a lot of Francis Bacon’s works too.


But it doesn’t (or rather, shouldn’t) come as a surprise. Just as finding that Tolstoy’s War and Peace accurately predicts events when analyzed in the same manner as the Bible Code shouldn’t come as a surprise. The high probability (Ergo, we shouldn’t find it surprising) of finding such pseudo-meaningful anagrammic or bible-codic intrepretations in any given text is precisely what tells us not to trust such cracked pottery (read: crackpot-tery).

The original phrase from which this post’s title is anagrammed generated 62502 results when entered into the Internet Anagram Server. Most were grammatically incorrect, but as the length of a text increases, the chances of forming a grammatical sentence become more, not less, likely (Of course, it would still require an incredible amount of work. Kudos to the two readers who anagrammed the paragraph).

Among the 1000 of 62502 results displayed were “a sin-thirsty globe”, “Tony, a gerbil, shits”, “a bygone shirt list” and “SOS: a liberty thing”. (Not really. The Server just gives sets of words that are anagrams of the original phrase. I had to rearrange the words to form the above phrases).

Activity: Try guessing the original phrase of this post’s title

Hint: You can’t use the Server to find the answer, ‘cos one of the words in the phrase is not in its dictionary, although it’s usage is extremely common nowadays, especially on the Net.

Big hint: What is this?

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