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Ramon Llull

Last Saturday the Guardian had a review of The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell (granddaughter of John Le Carré). Set in Barcelona and Mallorca, the book is a murder mystery and more; its presiding genius is Ramon Llull, the mediaeval Mallorcan who was described by Donald Knuth as “an energetic and quixotic Catalan poet, novelist, encyclopedist, educator, mystic and missionary” (in his article “Two thousand years of combinatorics” in… 522 more words

Mathematics And ...

OuLiPo

OuLiPo, or Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (which they translate as “Charity bazaar of potential literature”) were a collection of writers I knew little about until yesterday. 799 more words

Mathematics And ...

Mathematical metaphor

Last week, the book Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont emerged from its hiding place under the sofa. So I browsed a couple of chapters. 667 more words

Mathematics And ...

Open access and metrics: the Ball committee report

I mentioned this report in an earlier post; I am grateful to John Ball for directing me to the report on the web ( 430 more words

Mathematics And ...

Hood fellowships

On Monday, we went to a celebration of 10 years of the Hood Foundation, in University House, a lovely building which had been a synagogue and then a bank and was now offices for part of the university administration (with a central area for functions like this). 250 more words

Mathematics And ...

Poe on algebraists

Michael Kinyon reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe’s comments on algebraists in his story “The Purloined Letter”. Here they are in full.

“But is this really a poet?” I asked. 788 more words

History

Note on infinity

A common caricature of the view of the mediaeval scholastics is that they wondered whether the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin is infinite or not. 104 more words