Albrecht Dürer’s ruler and compass constructions

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) is a famous Renaissance artist. Mathematicians probably know him best for his work Melencolia I which contains a magic square, a mysterious polyhedron, a compass, etc. Today I was reading his book Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt (The Painter’s Manual: A manual of measurement of lines, areas, and solids…

Millay’s Euclid looks on Beauty bare

I had forgotten about this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay until I stumbled upon it again today. I thought you all would like it. Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare. Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace, And lay them prone upon the earth and cease To ponder on themselves, the…

Lincoln and squaring the circle

I’d heard a long time ago that Abraham Lincoln was a largely self-taught man and that he read Euclid’s Elements on his own. Right now I’m reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and from it I learned that not only did he read Euclid, he spent some time…

Mathematics in Moby-Dick

Twice before I have posted mathematical passages that I have stumbled upon in works of literature. Yesterday I finished reading Moby-Dick (great book, great ending!), so I thought I’d highlight a few mathematical passages that it contains. Especially interesting to me is the second one in which Melville mentions the impossibility of squaring a circle….

Tennenbaum’s proof of the irrationality of the square root of 2

Yesterday I came a across a new (new to me, that is) proof of the irrationality of . I found it in the paper “Irrationality From The Book,” by Steven J. Miller, David Montague, which was recently posted to arXiv.org. Apparently the proof was discovered by Stanley Tennenbaum in the 1950’s but was made widely known…

Last Sunday was a perfect day

Most geeky math types (like me) already know about pi day (March 14… 3/14, get it?). Writing in The Times Online, Marcus du Sautoy suggests a new math holiday: June 28. He suggests calling this day the World Math Day (actually, he suggests World Maths Day). Why? What is so mathematical about June 28? June 28 can…