Friday, June 25, 2010

Lucid as Euclid?

Ahoy all my Science & Math-minded friends!

Can you think of any available work--a book, a chapter, an essay, a website, a YouTube clip--that could introduce some more-or-less mathematically illiterate English majors to non-Euclidean geometry?

I don't care so much about their learning the geometry itself, or the various geometries. It's the intellectual adventure of the discovery that I need to communicate: the interest and excitement of it, and the worlds it opened up.

This will be a secondary source for my next interdisciplinary senior seminar on popular romance fiction, by the way. One of the novels I teach, Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm, features a mathematically-gifted 19th century hero who works on the problem. It's been hard for me to get students to focus on that aspect of the novel, or see its relevance to the other material in the book; I need something that will bring the topic to life for them.

By way of early payment, here's a musical tribute to the man behind the story in real life (well, one of them, anyway) from Tom Lehrer:


Kate said...

There is Margaret Wertheim's TED talk on the beautiful math of the coral reef -
Crocheting a Coral Reef

Or this man - who I heard speak a few years ago - who made me think that I TOO (lowly English teacher) could be a theoretical physicist -
James Gates

Bardiac said...

There's a book called something like "Flatland" that's about experiencing in different dimensions. It starts with two dimensions, so it's not non-Euclidian, but it does the discovery process well!

Mark Scroggins said...

Errrr... let me know when you get some good leads. I've been reading Alain Badiou, who's all hot for the higher mathematics (bases his refutation of postmodernism on set theory); asked a mathematician friend if there were a guide to the higher maths that didn't involve years of graduate study (& reswotting up my algebra, geometry, trig, & calculus), to which he replied: "you mean a bullshit guide? No such thing."