Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ghosts and Shadows

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 5:31 PM

For Poetry Month

From the home page of Alexandre Borovik:

Book in progress: Shadows of the Truth

This book (to be published soon) can be viewed
as a sequel to Mathematics under the Microscope ,
but with focus shifted on mathematics as it was
experienced by children (well, by children who
became mathematicians). The cover is designed
by Edmund Harriss.

See also Harriss's weblog post of Dec. 27, 2008, on the death
of Harold Pinter: "The Search for the Truth Can Never Stop."

This suggests a review of my own post of Dec. 3, 2012,
"The Revisiting." A figure from that post:

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/GEB.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Cosmic Part

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 6:29 PM

Yesterday's midday post, borrowing a phrase from the theology of Marvel Comics,
offered Rubik's mechanical contrivance as a rather absurd "Cosmic Cube."

A simpler candidate for the "Cube" part of that phrase:


The Eightfold Cube

As noted elsewhere, a simple reflection group* of order 168 acts naturally on this structure.

"Because of their truly fundamental role in mathematics,
even the simplest diagrams concerning finite reflection groups
(or finite mirror systems, or root systems—
the languages are equivalent) have interpretations
of cosmological proportions."

Alexandre V. Borovik in "Coxeter Theory: The Cognitive Aspects"

Borovik has a such a diagram—


The planes in Borovik's figure are those separating the parts of the eightfold cube above.

In Coxeter theory, these are Euclidean hyperplanes. In the eightfold cube, they represent three of seven projective points that are permuted by the above group of order 168.

In light of Borovik's remarks, the eightfold cube might serve to illustrate the "Cosmic" part of the Marvel Comics phrase.

For some related theological remarks, see Cube Trinity in this journal.

Happy St. Augustine's Day.

* I.e., one generated by reflections : group actions that fix a hyperplane pointwise. In the eightfold cube, viewed as a vector space of 3 dimensions over the 2-element Galois field, these hyperplanes are certain sets of four subcubes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Simplify (continued)

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 PM

"Plato acknowledges how khora  challenges our normal categories
 of rational understanding. He suggests that we might best approach it
 through a kind of dream  consciousness."
  —Richard Kearney, quoted here yesterday afternoon

"You make me feel like I'm living a teenage dream."
 — Song at last night's Grammy awards

Image-- Richard Kiley with record collection in 'Blackboard Jungle,' 1955

Richard Kiley in "Blackboard Jungle" (1955)
Note the directive on the blackboard.

Quoted here last year on this date

Alexandre Borovik's Mathematics Under the Microscope  (American Mathematical Society, 2010)—

"Once I mentioned to Gelfand that I read his Functions and Graphs ; in response, he rather sceptically asked me what I had learned from the book. He was delighted to hear my answer: 'The general principle of always looking at the simplest possible example.'….

So, let us look at the principle in more detail:

Always test a mathematical theory on the simplest possible example…

This is a banality, of course. Everyone knows it; therefore, almost no one follows it."

Related material— Geometry Simplified and A Simple Reflection Group of Order 168.

"Great indeed is the riddle of the universe.
 Beautiful indeed is the source of truth."

– Shing-Tung Yau, Chairman,
Department of Mathematics, Harvard University

"Always keep a diamond in your mind."

King Solomon at the Paradiso

IMAGE-- Imaginary movie poster- 'The Galois Connection'- from stoneship.org

Image from stoneship.org

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 1:06 PM

Published on November 10, 2009

IMAGE- Borovik and Borovik, 'Mirrors and Reflections: The Geometry of Finite Reflection Groups'

The above book may be regarded as an ironic answer to a question posed here on that date

“Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts.”

– David Brooks in the Nov. 10, 2009, New York Times

What else is new?

For related kindergarten thoughts, see Finite Geometry and Physical Space.

For the connection of the kindergarten thoughts to reflections, see A Simple Reflection Group of Order 168.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Window, continued

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , — m759 @ 10:31 AM

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs
be as two or three,
and not a hundred or a thousand;
instead of a million count half a dozen,
and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This quotation is the epigraph to Section 1.1 of
Alexandre V. Borovik's
Mathematics Under the Microscope:

Notes on Cognitive Aspects of Mathematical Practice
(American Mathematical Society, Jan. 15, 2010, 317 pages).

From Peter J. Cameron's review notes for
his new course in group theory


From Log24 on June 24

Geometry Simplified

Image-- The Four-Point Plane: A Finite Affine Space
(an affine  space with subsquares as points
and sets  of subsquares as hyperplanes)

Image-- The Three-Point Line: A Finite Projective Space
(a projective  space with, as points, sets
  of line segments that separate subsquares)


Show that the above geometry is a model
for the algebra discussed by Cameron.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Training

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 8:00 AM

A search for previous mentions of Alexandre Borovik in this journal (see previous entry) yields the following–

In Roger Rosenblatt's academic novel Beet, committee members propose their personal plans for a new, improved curriculum:

“… Once the students really got into playing with toy soldiers, they would understand history with hands-on excitement.”

To demonstrate his idea, he’d brought along a shoe box full of toy doughboys and grenadiers, and was about to reenact the Battle of Verdun on the committee table when Heilbrun stayed his hand. “We get it,” he said.

“That’s quite interesting, Molton,” said Booth [a chemist]. “But is it rigorous enough?”

At the mention of the word, everyone, save Peace, sat up straight.

“Rigor is so important,” said Kettlegorf.

“We must have rigor,” said Booth.

“You may be sure,” said the offended Kramer. “I never would propose anything lacking rigor.”

This passage suggests a search for commentary on rigor at Verdun. Voilà

d) The Great War: a study in systematic rigor

… Because treaties had been signed, national pride staked, hands shaken, and honor pledged, two thousand years of civilization based on energetic, creative sacrifice and belief in every person’s sacred spark dissolved in smoldering ruins.  Europe’s leaders played at the “game” of honor without duly considering whether their ends were honorable.  The old boys incited their children— others’ children, and often their own— to volunteer for the slaughterhouse because “death for the fatherland is sweet and fitting.” 7

     If men will thus fling their own sons into the fiery furnace in an obsession with making the system go, what hope is there that a mere game— a true game, a joyful pastime— will liberate itself from systematic rigor to increase the quality of play or to allow more players on the field?

7 Wilfrid Owen borrowed this line from the Roman elegist Horace to mock bitterly the European Old Guard’s staunch support of the War.  The poem was one of Owen’s last: he was killed one week before the Armistice.

— "A  Synthetic Meditation on Baseball, Racism, Closed Systems, and Spiritual Rigor Mortis," by John R. Harris

The Beet excerpt is from a post of Sunday, May 25, 2008– "Hall of Mirrors."

Related material on death and rigor appears in a 1963 commentary by Thornton Wilder on a novel by James Joyce–

"… Joyce's interest is not primarily in the puns but in the simultaneous multiple-level associations which they permit him to pursue. Finnegans Wake appears to me as an immense poem whose subject is the continuity of what is Living, viewed under the guise of a resurrection myth. This poem is conducted under the utmost formal rigor controlling every word and in a style that enables the author through apparently preposterous incongruities to arrive at an ultimate unification and harmony."

"Build it and they will come." — Field of Dreams

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Variations on a Theme

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 2:29 PM

Today's previous entry was "Gameplayers of the Academy."

More on this theme–

David Corfield in the March 2010
European Mathematical Society newsletter

    "Staying on the theme of games, the mathematician
Alexandre Borovik* once told me he thinks of mathematics
as a Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. If
so, it would show up very clearly the difference between
internal and external viewpoints. Inside the game people
are asking each other whether they were right about
something they encountered in it– 'When you entered
the dungeon did you see that dragon in the fireplace or
did I imagine it?' But someone observing them from the
outside wants to shout: 'You’re not dealing with anything
real. You’ve just got a silly virtual reality helmet on.' External
nominalists say the same thing, if more politely, to
mathematical practitioners. But in an important way the
analogy breaks down. Even if the players interact with
the game to change its functioning in unforeseen ways,
there were the original programmers who set the bounds
for what is possible by the choices they made. When they
release the next version of the game they will have made
changes to allow new things to happen. In the case of
mathematics, it’s the players themselves who make these
choices. There’s no further layer outside.
    What can we do then instead to pin down internal reality?"

*See previous references to Borovik in this journal.

Related material:

The Diamond Theory vs. the Story Theory of Truth,

Infantilizing the Audience, and

It's Still the Same Old Story…God of War III

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Theories: An Outline

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , — m759 @ 10:31 AM

Truth, Geometry, Algebra

The following notes are related to A Simple Reflection Group of Order 168.

1. According to H.S.M. Coxeter and Richard J. Trudeau

“There is a pleasantly discursive treatment of Pontius Pilate’s unanswered question ‘What is truth?’.”

— Coxeter, 1987, introduction to Trudeau’s The Non-Euclidean Revolution

1.1 Trudeau’s Diamond Theory of Truth

1.2 Trudeau’s Story Theory of Truth

2. According to Alexandre Borovik and Steven H. Cullinane

2.1 Coxeter Theory according to Borovik

2.1.1 The Geometry–

Mirror Systems in Coxeter Theory

2.1.2 The Algebra–

Coxeter Languages in Coxeter Theory

2.2 Diamond Theory according to Cullinane

2.2.1 The Geometry–

Examples: Eightfold Cube and Solomon’s Cube

2.2.2 The Algebra–

Examples: Cullinane and (rather indirectly related) Gerhard Grams

Summary of the story thus far:

Diamond theory and Coxeter theory are to some extent analogous– both deal with reflection groups and both have a visual (i.e., geometric) side and a verbal (i.e., algebraic) side.  Coxeter theory is of course highly developed on both sides. Diamond theory is, on the geometric side, currently restricted to examples in at most three Euclidean (and six binary) dimensions. On the algebraic side, it is woefully underdeveloped. For material related to the algebraic side, search the Web for generators+relations+”characteristic two” (or “2“) and for generators+relations+”GF(2)”. (This last search is the source of the Grams reference in 2.2.2 above.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday School

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 9:00 AM

"Simplify, simplify." — Henry David Thoreau

"Because of their truly fundamental role in mathematics, even the simplest diagrams concerning finite reflection groups (or finite mirror systems, or root systems– the languages are equivalent) have interpretations of cosmological proportions."

Alexandre Borovik, 2010 (See previous entry.)

Exercise: Discuss Borovik's remark
that "the languages are equivalent"
in light of the web page


A Simple Reflection Group
of Order 168


Theorems 15.1 and 15.2 of Borovik's book (1st ed. Nov. 10, 2009)
Mirrors and Reflections: The Geometry of Finite Reflection Groups

15.1 (p. 114): Every finite reflection group is a Coxeter group.

15.2 (p. 114): Every finite Coxeter group is isomorphic to a finite reflection group.

Consider in this context the above simple reflection group of order 168.

(Recall that "…there is only one simple Coxeter group (up to isomorphism); it has order 2…" —A.M. Cohen.)


Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 8:28 AM

From Alexandre Borovik's new book
Mathematics Under the Microscope
  (American Mathematical Society, 2010)–


Related material:

Finite Geometry and Physical Space
(Good Friday, 2009)

This kindergarten-level discussion of
the simple group of order 168
also illustrates Thoreau's advice:

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday December 22, 2008

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 11:07 AM
Fides et Ratio

Part I:

Continued from…

    December 20, 2003

White, Geometric,
   and Eternal

Permutahedron-- a truncated octahedron with vertices labeled by the 24 permutations of four things

Makin' the Changes

(From "Flag Matroids," by
Borovik, Gelfand, and White)

Edward Rothstein,

Edward Rothstein on faith and reason, with snowflakes in an Absolut Vodka ad, NYT 12/20/03

White and Geometric,
 but not Eternal.

Part II:

Cocktail: the logo of the New York Times 'Proof' series

For more information,
click on the cocktail.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday May 25, 2008

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 6:30 PM
Hall of Mirrors

Epigraph to
Deploying the Glass Bead Game, Part II,”
by Robert de Marrais:

“For a complete logical argument,”
Arthur began
with admirable solemnity,
“we need two prim Misses –”
“Of course!” she interrupted.
“I remember that word now.
And they produce — ?”
“A Delusion,” said Arthur.

— Lewis Carroll,
Sylvie and Bruno

Prim Miss 1:

Erin O’Connor’s weblog
“Critical Mass” on May 24:

Roger Rosenblatt’s Beet [Ecco hardcover, Jan. 29, 2008] is the latest addition to the noble sub-genre of campus fiction….

Curricular questions and the behavior of committees are at once dry as dust subjects and areas ripe for sarcastic send-up– not least because, as dull as they are, they are really both quite vital to the credibility and viability of higher education.

Here’s an excerpt from the first meeting, in which committee members propose their personal plans for a new, improved curriculum:

“… Once the students really got into playing with toy soldiers, they would understand history with hands-on excitement.”

To demonstrate his idea, he’d brought along a shoe box full of toy doughboys and grenadiers, and was about to reenact the Battle of Verdun on the committee table when Heilbrun stayed his hand. “We get it,” he said.

“That’s quite interesting, Molton,” said Booth [a chemist]. “But is it rigorous enough?”

At the mention of the word, everyone, save Peace, sat up straight.

“Rigor is so important,” said Kettlegorf.

“We must have rigor,” said Booth.

“You may be sure,” said the offended Kramer. “I never would propose anything lacking rigor.”

Smythe inhaled and looked at the ceiling. “I think I may have something of interest,” he said, as if he were at a poker game and was about to disclose a royal flush. “My proposal is called ‘Icons of Taste.’ It would consist of a galaxy of courses affixed to several departments consisting of lectures on examples of music, art, architecture, literature, and other cultural areas a student needed to indicate that he or she was sophisticated.”

“Why would a student want to do that?” asked Booth.

“Perhaps sophistication is not a problem for chemists,” said Smythe. Lipman tittered.

“What’s the subject matter?” asked Heilbrun. “Would it have rigor?”

“Of course it would have rigor. Yet it would also attract those additional students Bollovate is talking about.” Smythe inhaled again. “The material would be carefully selected,” he said. “One would need to pick out cultural icons the students were likely to bring up in conversation for the rest of their lives, so that when they spoke, others would recognize their taste as being exquisite yet eclectic and unpredictable.”

“You mean Rembrandt?” said Kramer.

Smythe smiled with weary contempt. “No, I do not mean Rembrandt. I don’t mean Beethoven or Shakespeare, either, unless something iconic has emerged about them to justify their more general appeal.”

“You mean, if they appeared on posters,” said Lipman.

“That’s it, precisely.”

Lipman blushed with pride.

“The subject matter would be fairly easy to amass,” Smythe said. “We could all make up a list off the top of our heads. Einstein–who does have a poster.” He nodded to the ecstatic Lipman. “Auden, for the same reason. Students would need to be able to quote ‘September 1939[ or at least the last lines. And it would be good to teach ‘Musee des Beaux Arts’ as well, which is off the beaten path, but not garishly. Mahler certainly. But Cole Porter too. And Sondheim, I think. Goya. Warhol, it goes without saying, Stephen Hawking, Kurosawa, Bergman, Bette Davis. They’d have to come up with some lines from Dark Victory, or better still, Jezebel. La Dolce Vita. Casablanca. King of Hearts. And Orson, naturally. Citizen Kane, I suppose, though personally I prefer F for Fake.”

“Judy!” cried Heilbrun.

“Yes, Judy too. But not ‘Over the Rainbow.’ It would be more impressive for them to do ‘The Trolley Song,’ don’t you think?” Kettlegorf hummed the intro.

Guernica,” said Kramer. “Robert Capa.” Eight-limbed asterisk

“Edward R. Murrow,” said Lipman.

“No! Don’t be ridiculous!” said Smythe, ending Lipman’s brief foray into the world of respectable thought.

“Marilyn Monroe!” said Kettlegorf.

“Absolutely!” said Smythe, clapping to indicate his approval.

“And the Brooklyn Bridge,” said Booth, catching on. “And the Chrysler Building.”

“Maybe,” said Smythe. “But I wonder if the Chrysler Building isn’t becoming something of a cliche.”

Peace had had enough. “And you want students to nail this stuff so they’ll do well at cocktail parties?”

Smythe sniffed criticism, always a tetchy moment for him. “You make it sound so superficial,” he said.

Prim Miss 2:

Siri Hustvedt speaks at Adelaide Writers’ Week– a story dated March 24, 2008

“I have come to think of my books as echo chambers or halls of mirrors in which themes, ideas, associations continually reflect and reverberate inside a text. There is always point and counterpoint, to use a musical illustration. There is always repetition with difference.”

A Delusion:

Exercise — Identify in the following article the sentence that one might (by unfairly taking it out of context) argue is a delusion.

(Hint: See Reflection Groups in Finite Geometry.)

A. V. Borovik, 'Maroids and Coxeter Groups'

Why Borovik’s Figure 4
is included above:

Euclid, Peirce, L’Engle:
No Royal Roads.

For more on Prim Miss 2
and deploying
the Glass Bead Game,
see the previous entry.

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/images/asterisk8.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. And now, perhaps, his brother Cornell Capa, who died Friday.

 Related material: Log24 on March 24– Death and the Apple Tree— with an excerpt from
George MacDonald, and an essay by David L. Neuhouser mentioning the influence of MacDonald on Lewis Carroll– Lewis Carroll: Author, Mathematician, and Christian (pdf).

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