O l’Omertà o la Morte

• φασὶ γοῦν Ἵππαρχον τὸν Πυθαγόρειον, αἰτίαν ἔχοντα γράψασθαι τὰ τοῦ Πυθαγόρου σαφῶς, ἐξελαθῆναι τῆς διατριβῆς καὶ στήλην ἐπ’ αὐτῷ γενέσθαι οἷα νεκρῷ. — Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, Στρώματα.

• They say, then, that Hipparchus the Pythagorean, being guilty of writing the tenets of Pythagoras in plain language, was expelled from the school, and a pillar raised for him as if he had been dead. — Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 2.5.9.57.3-4

Russell in Your Head-Roe

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry. What is best in mathematics deserves not merely to be learnt as a task, but to be assimilated as a part of daily thought, and brought again and again before the mind with ever-renewed encouragement. Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible; but the world of pure reason knows no compromise, no practical limitations, no barrier to the creative activity embodying in splendid edifices the passionate aspiration after the perfect from which all great work springs. Remote from human passions, remote even from the pitiful facts of nature, the generations have gradually created an ordered cosmos, where pure thought can dwell as in its natural home, and where one, at least, of our nobler impulses can escape from the dreary exile of the actual world. — Bertrand Russell, “The Study Of Mathematics” (1902)


The title of this incendiary intervention is of course a paronomasia on these lines from Led Zeppelin’s magisterial “Stairway to Heaven”:

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now:
It’s just a spring-clean for the May Queen…”

And “head-roe” is a kenning for “brain”.

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #41

κατ’ ἐπακολούθημα δὲ καὶ περὶ τῆς ἐγκυκλίου καλουμένης παιδείας, εἰς ὅσα εὔχρηστος, περί τε ἀστρολογικῆς καὶ μαθηματικῆς καὶ μαγικῆς γοητείας τε ἐπιδραμητέον. αὐχοῦσι γὰρ δὴ καὶ ἐπὶ ταῖσδε οἱ Πανέλληνες ὡς μεγίσταις ἐπιστήμαις. — Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, Στρώματα.

   “By consequence, also we must treat of what is called the curriculum of study — how far it is serviceable; and of astrology, and mathematics, and magic, and sorcery. For all the Greeks boast of these as the highest sciences.” — Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book II.

He Say, He Sigh, He Show #33

Apud me omnia fiunt Mathematicè in NaturaRené Descartes (1596-1650).
  • For me, all things in nature occur mathematically. — Correspondence with Martin Mersenne (1640).

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #20

“In 1997, Fabrice Bellard announced that the trillionth digit of π, in binary notation, is 1.” — Ian Stewart, The Great Mathematical Problems (2013).