Published on Thursday, October 28, 2010 in , , , ,

jpstanley's Pumpkin PiHalloween is just around the corner, so it's time for a little spooky fun, math geek style!

Here's a quick math joke to get us going: Why do mathematicians always confuse Halloween and Christmas? Because Oct 31 = Dec 25!

Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem, The Raven, has been a long-time Halloween favorite. It's very enjoyable, but what happens when you give it a mathematical twist?

Back in 1995, Mike Keith wondered what you would get if you crossed Poe with Pi. The result is his amazing work, Poe, E., Near a Raven. Here are the first two stanzas:

Poe, E.
Near a Raven

Midnights so dreary, tired and weary.
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap - the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber's antedoor.
"This", I whispered quietly, "I ignore".

Perfectly, the intellect remembers: the ghostly fires, a glittering ember.
Inflamed by lightning's outbursts, windows cast penumbras upon this floor.
Sorrowful, as one mistreated, unhappy thoughts I heeded:
That inimitable lesson in elegance - Lenore -
Is delighting, exciting...nevermore.
How is it related to Pi? Take a close look at the title. Poe has 3 letters, followed by E., a single letter. We then have Near A Raven, a 4-letter word, followed by another single-letter word, concluding with a 5-letter word. In short, the number of letters gives us 3-1-4-1-5! Mike Keith explains more about “standard Pilish” in this article.

If you can remember that whole version, you can remember pi to 740 digits! Mike Keith took the same idea even further, when he used this poem as the opening to Cadaeic Cadenza. This is a story about classic poems being mysteriously re-written, and works as a mnemonic for 3,835 digits of Pi!

It seems as though Halloween, a time when post people are disguising themselves as something they aren't, geeks seem to feel more free to let their true self out more. For example, take Professor Weathers' 2009 Halloween lecture at Biola University:

With all the scary stuff in the video, such as the head-turning and psychos sneaking up on him, I can't help but wonder what would happen if a math professor did wind up facing the devil. It doesn't seem like a situation where intelligence or logic would help you prevail.

I'll wind up this post with just such a Halloween story for you, called I of Newton:

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