The Mystery Piano-Player at the Mittag-Leffler Institute

piano-mystery

In a previous post I told you about my Mittag-Leffler 2005 experience, and challenged you, readers, to discover the identity of a mysterious piano player. Coming from Yale, I was jet-lagged, an experience which already worked for me once in 1991 when I visited the
Mittah-Leffler institute and  was exploring subexponential variants of the simplex algorithm. In 2005, I came every day to my office at a very early hour in the morning and started working on quantum fault-tolerance.  And very early in the morning somebody was already at the piano. Who was playing the piano for me in the Mittag-Leffler Institute?

Hearing the piano and realizing who my private pianist was on these early mornings reminded me of a very cheerful song that we used to sing in my wife’s family gatherings. The song was introduced by uncle Shimon, husband of my-mother-in-law’s sister Rachel, and he took the lead role.

Shimon start singing: “And what are we going to eat at this feast?”
and we all joined: “A whale and a wild ox, we are going to eat, a whale and a wild ox!”

Wild ox and whale are not kosher (Update: so I, naively, thought), but comprise of the menu of the righteous people in heaven. This was indeed a very cheerful death-defiant song that went on like this:

“And what are we going to drink at this feast?” and we all replied: “Reserve wine, we will drink, reserve wine we will drink, and a whale and wild ox we will eat at this feast!”

And it continued:

“And who is going to taech us the words of the Torah?
Moses our rabbi! Yes, Moses our rabbi is going to teach us the words of the Torah, reserve wine we will drink, and a whale and wild ox we will eat at this feast.

And who is going to tell us words of wisdom at this feast? King Solomon! Yes King Solomon will tell us words of wisdom; Moses our rabbi is going to teach us the words of the Torah, reserve wine we will drink, and a whale and wild ox we will eat at this feast.

And who is going to dance for us, at this feast?
Deborah the prophet! Yes, Deborah the prophet is going to dance for us! King Solomon will tell us words of wisdom; Moses our rabbi is going to teach us the words of the Torah, reserve wine we will drink, and a whale and wild ox we will eat at this feast!

And who is going to play music for us at this feast? King David is going to play music for us at this feast!  Deborah the prophet is going to dance for us! King Solomon will tell us words of wisdom; Moses our rabbi is going to teach us the words of the Torah, reserve wine we will drink, and a whale and wild ox we will eat at this feast!”

Here it is in Hebrew:

 ומה נאכל בארוחה זו? שור הבר לוויתן! שור הבר לוויתן נאכל בארוחה זו

ומה נשתה הארוחה זו? יין המשומר! יין המשומר נשתה , שור הבר לוויתן נאכל, בארוחה זו

 ומי יאמר לנו דברי תורה בארוחה זו? משה רבנו! משה רבנו יאמר לנו דברי תורה, יין המשומר נשתה , שור הבר לוויתן נאכל, בארוחה זו

ומי יגיד לנו דברי חכמה בארוחה זו? שלמה המלך! שלמה המלך יגיד לנו דברי חכמה, משה רבנו יאמר לנו דברי תורה, יין המשומר נשתה , שור הבר לוויתן נאכל, בארוחה זו

ומי ינגן לנו בארוחה זו? דוד המלך! דוד המלך ינגן לנו, דבורה הנביאה תרקד לנו, שלמה המלך יגיד לנו דברי חכמה, משה רבנו יאמר לנו דברי תורה, יין המשומר נשתה , שור הבר לוויתן נאכל, בארוחה זו

ומי ישמח איתנו בארוחה זו? כל המסובין! כל המסובין ישמחו איתנו, דוד המלך ינגן לנו,  דבורה הנביאה תרקד לנו, שלמה המלך יגיד לנו דברי חכמה, משה רבנו יאמר לנו דברי תורה, יין המשומר נשתה , שור הבר לוויתן נאכל, בארוחה זו

The person who was playing the piano at six o’clock in the morning at the Mittag-Leffler institute was not King David, but rather
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Rodica Simion: Immigrant Complex

Rodica Simion immigrated to the United States from Romania. She was a Professor of Mathematices at George Washington University untill her untimely death on January 7, 2000. Her poem  “Immigrant complex” appeared in : “Against Infinity”, An Anthology of Contemporary Mathematical Poetry, edited by Ernest Robson and Jet Wimp, 1979, p. 66. Published by Primary Press, Parker Ford, PA, and Jet Wimp, Drexel University.


I have a
complex
not simplicial (it is-in fact-
involved)
not a cell-complex
(my cells are
fine)
not a CW

complex
(I have no com-
plexion no weight
problems)

it is a
language
complex

my thinking is of
class C-one even
C-infinity

it does not matter:
my speech
approximates it by
linear functions
only
my talk (being merely
polygonal) wastes
my
C-n (n  > > 0)
mind
 Continue reading 

Annotating Kimmo Eriksson’s Poem

“Start counting her NUMBER OF FACES,” Kimmo Eriksson, Brush up your Björner (2008).

The time is right to annotate Kimmo Eriksson’s memorable poem:

1. What are Chip firing games?

Many women will find it admirable
if you tell her she makes your CHIPS FIRABLE.

Chip firing games are (solitary) games played on graphs: each node of a directed graph contains a pile of chips. A move consists of selecting a node with at least as many chips as its outdegree, and sending one chip along each outgoing edge to its neighbors. The remarkable property of these games is that depending on the sizes of the piles, either the game continues forever or it reaches a position where it cannot be played further. In the latter case the final position, the number of moves, and even the number of times each node fired do not depend on the specific moves made along the game.

Sheep firing game (You may play the game by clicking on the picture; disclaimer: we object to cruel treatment of animals)

In the rest of this post you can read about shellability, weak and strong (Bruhat) partial orders on the set of permutations, chessboard complexes, and more.  Continue reading

A New Rector-Elect at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

Professor Sarah Stroumsa

On Wednesday, the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem elected Professor Sarah Stroumsa (homepage) as the next Rector (provost) of the Hebrew University. For the first time since its establishment, the Hebrew University has elected a woman to its highest post of academic leadership.

The situation of the Israeli higher education is complicated and constantly on the verge of a crisis. But this election is a reason for celebration for the HU, and is part of an ongoing change in the Israeli society as a whole.

Leah Goldberg, 1946

Professor Leah Goldberg

 On this occasion, I would like to dedicate to Sarah and to the HU community a poem entitled “Rainbow”, written by the poet Leah Goldberg.  Leah Goldberg was an important scholar and a professor at the Hebrew University, and she is most famous as one of the greatest Hebrew writers of modern times. It is a poem for children, which I also regard as a metaphor of academic and other quests. To further celebrate the event (and in the tradition of Ehud Friedgut’s translation contest of a limerick on Konigsberg’s bridges and Euler), I am announcing an open contest for translating the poem into English. Please email me your translations or post them directly here. (You can find a very rough literal translation below.)

 

 

 

בשמיים ראיתי קשת,
היא עמדה ממש מול הרחוב
ורציתי אליה לגשת
ולראות אותה מקרוב.
והתחלתי ללכת, ללכת,
ועליתי על ראש גיבעה.
אך ככל שהרחקתי לכת
הקשת לא קרבה:

 עופי, עופי, יפת כנפיים!
עופי, עופי אל המרום,
אל הקשת אשר בשמיים
ומיסרי לה בירכת שלום.

 היא עמדה במרום רקיע
כמצויירת על עננה,
אז ידעתי שלא אגיע
ושלחתי אליה יונה. Continue reading

Brush Up Your Björner:

 

Just returning from a conference in Stockholm.

BRUSH UP YOUR BJÖRNER
(Cole Porter: Brush up your Shakespeare – new lyrics by Kimmo Eriksson)

The girls today in society
go for great mathematics, see.
So to win their hearts you must quote with ease
Pythagoras and Archimedes.
One must know Newton and Gauss and, hey,
what’s his name, eh? Poincaré!
Unless you know Grothendieck and DesCartes
no sweet lady will give you her heart.
But to really make them fall
and to make your love-life surrealist,
quote the greatest of them all:
a 60-year old comb’naturrealist.

Brush up your Björner,
start quoting him now!
Brush up your Björner,
and the ladies you will wow.

Many women will find it admirable
if you tell her she makes your CHIPS FIRABLE.
If your lady-friend still isn’t yielding
say you’ve got this big place: a TITS BUILDING.
If there still is some source of estrangement
make some cozier SUBSPACE ARRANGEMENT.
Brush up your Björner,
and they’ll all be charmed!

Continue reading