Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mathematicians and Fishing.

Fermat’s Last Theorm by Simone Singh was an entertaining read, as he was able to simplify maths enough to integrate it with a suspense novel. Reading the book still requires grade seven maths understanding, which is not a problem. The book revolves around a 300 years old maths puzzle, with a price on it’s solution. The puzzle is simple enough and the fact that the prize was left unclaimed over such a long time is interesting. Simon Singh brings vibrancy to the “dull” life of a mathematician, and is able to capture and retain the reader’s attention for the entire duration of this short book. Science writing has its fans, but alas, all too few. A highly recommended read for anybody interested in mathematics.

I also managed to breeze through Paul Torday’s Salmon fishing in Yemen. I like the book for three reasons: a) It is written by an engineer b) Paul has spent considerable time in Oman, where I worked for, alas, too short a time, and c) The book treats people in the Middle East with respect and understanding. A very entertaining read, and a quick book to read through in a couple of sittings. I could appreciate the message in the book, which although vey simple, was relevant for me, a middle aged person. The crisis in the middle aged of marriage and profession was well related with no loose strings. I would recommend for a nothing else to do, rainy day read.

Odds and ends

The race for the oxford professor of poetry turned nasty, what with the favourite candidate , Derek Walcott, withdrawing after allegations of sexual harassment were made anonymously. This now turned into a two horse race with Ruthe Padel winning easily. A few days later she is accused of tipping off journalists on the allegations against Walcott. And then she resigns.

Now what happens? Does the remaining candidate, Arvind Mehrotra, professor at Allahabad University automatically take up the post? Oxford is silent, living up to the highest traditions of English traditions- when in trouble be discreet. Be very discreet.

Anyway Arvind’s poetry is nothing to be scoffed at. Here is

Canticle for My Son

The dog barks and the cat mews,
The moon comes out in the sky,
The birds are mostly settled.
I envy your twelve hours
Of uninterrupted dreaming.

I take your small palms in mine
And don’t know what
To do with them. Beware, my son,
Of those old clear-headed women

Who never miss a funeral

Delhi Chronicles

Now that the Indian cricket team is safely out of the T20 world cup, a lot of my friends are catching up on their sleep. The IPL and the T20 matches at night kept some of them awake till late hours, with consequences the next day. Fogginess to be dispelled by cups of coffee and tea were the order of the day, besides the hours lost in discussing the details of last night’s match. Too much T.V cricket is not a good idea for an alert mind. Pakistan winning the cup was consolation of sorts; at least the cup is in the general neighbourhood.

This summer has been horrible. The temperature stayed above 40C for days, touching 44 C frequently, and with the electricity and water playing truant, Delhi turned obnoxious. The met is promising rains in the first week of July, but I have no faith in that government body. I do not think they know anything about predicting weather, although they get paid to say they do.

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