Sunday, October 18, 2009

88 Lines About 44 Mathematicians

The song below, called "88 Lines About 44 Mathematicians", is a parody of "88 Lines About 44 Women" by The Nails. I have been meaning to write this parody for several years. I surprisingly have had a bit of a lag in my work today, so I have spent a few hours finally writing this up. I am sure it can be improved in places (perhaps substantially in some cases), so I would appreciate any suggestions regarding individuals lines. I will eventually submit it for publication as a short lighthearted piece, though I haven't yet decided where I should send it. Right now, I am thinking of an MAA venue so that teachers can students can see it, though I think I will need to censor one of the lines if I send it there.

Note: Obviously, I have selected a small subset of mathematicians from the ones I could have chosen. These selections reflect a combination of importance, personal taste and favoritism, and convenience. These 44 mathematicians are in no way meant to reflect the "top" 44 possibilities or anything of the sort, so please don't interpret it that way. I only picked mathematicians listed among the biographies in this catalog. My choices also tended to have a modern twist, and some of the biases in those choices certainly reflect my own mathematical interests.

Anyway, here are the lyrics:

88 Lines About 44 Mathematicians

by Mason A. Porter, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford

(inspired by "88 Lines About 44 Women" by The Nails)

Carl Gauss the child prodigy
gained fame for counting and results aplenty.
Bourbaki was a different type,
he was one who represented many.
Zeeman likes singularities,
he put on a catastrophic show.
Smale proved nontrivial theorems
on the sands of Rio.

Dodgson had a different name,
he designed a wonderland.
Fermat liked to play with numbers,
a bigger margin or smaller hand?
Knuth had this special way
of turning math into a paper.
Mark Kac was into spectral theory,
hearing drum shapes were his caper.

Einstein was an archetype,
1905 was his miracle year.
Landau's books are very famous,
Most "new" results are already in here. :)
Isaac Newton invented calculus,
Future work has been derivative.
Gottfried Liebniz was also around,
he too had calculus to give.

Coxeter insisted he was not a ship,
he preferred geometry.
Chern also liked that stuff,
he even brought us MSRI.
Edward Lorenz gave us butterflies
and helped to dawn the age of chaos.
Poincare also saw that path,
sans computers he started that craze!

Fourier transformed periodic functions,
oscillations gave him his kicks.
Gibbs was a phenomenon,
a father of statistical mechanics.
Bessel functioned as an astronomer,
though he was a mathematician too.
Fredholm gave an alternative,
how many solutions are there for you?

Emmy Noether was a pioneer,
she did a lot with symmetry.
George Birkhoff studied many topics,
e.g., he liked ergodicity.
Mary Cartwright spanned pure and applied,
she helped pioneer systems dynamical.
Serge Lang was quite prolific,
he wouldn't suffer shit at all.

Uh-uh. Not Serge Lang.

Hilbert tried to make things simple,
by enumerating 23 problems.
Cauchy however was quite complex,
studying elasticity and integrals.
von Neumann fathered computation,
though that isn't close to all he did.
Turing was into algorithms,
into culture his machine has slid.

Stokes liked math and physics,
he produced fluid equations bona fide.
Godel wasn't quite complete,
a major feat, I must confide.
Moebius wrought a geometric strip,
we no longer need orientation.
Ito's interesting obsession
was stochastic differential equations.

The Bernoulli family was ubiquitous
in myriad parts of mathematics.
Bromwich was much less famous,
but his contour surely did the trick.
Ramanujan was a legend,
his math notebook is rather full.
Riemann started several trends
with his hypothesis and integral.
Martin Kruskal was solitary,
waves and asymptotics were his thing.
G. H. Hardy was much more pure,
'useless' math made his heart sing.
Richard Courant went the other way,
with an Institute and mathematical physics.
John Nash studied games and fixed points,
his story and Nobel pleased the critics.
Hawking has become a rock star,
he has really gone quite far.
Archimedes spiraled in
but despite orders was done in.
Erdos loved only mathematics,
graphs and numbers make for enticing trysts.
Euler hardly ever missed,
I chose him to end this list.

Eighty-eight lines about forty-four mathematicians.


Anonymous said...

Nice one, the line about Newton in particular was pretty good :)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Legendre, Laplace, Wiles and Witten.........,?

thanks for this synthetic 88-lines ;)


Mason said...

Miguel: I did indeed consider all 4 of them. You'll notice that some of them were specifically chosen because of puns I wanted to make. Also, some choices made the slant rhyming easier---it's a good thing that the lyrics of the original song had trouble getting rhymes to work. :)

BeSquared said...

Hilarious. So true to the original spirit of the song (uh-uh, not Serge Lang). I almost want to play the original for my students so they'll appreciate this version.

-Barry Balof, Project NExT

Mason said...

Yeah, I think I honored the spirit pretty well. In the version I submit, I am going to need to change "shit" to "fools", which is unfortunate because the former jibes much better with the original song.

Now all I have to do is figure out where to submit it. Math Horizons looks like a viable possibility.