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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fermat's Last Stand

Okay, this is a hoot. The link gives the summary of the play, which involves such things as the Shroud of Turing and the Mathematical Pirates as well as an encounter with St. Thomas Aquinas.  The tunes I found hard to hear, but the YouTube site has the lyrics printed.  Herewith, three of the immortal songs:
The Mathematical Pirate Shanty
Thomas Aquinas' Song
The Battle Hymn of the Republic of Letters


The Mathematical Pirate Shanty

(Some of the jokes are estoric.)
LYRICS:

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER:
Root two men on a dead man's chest

ALL:
Yo ho and a Klein bottle of rum!

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER:
Mathematical pirates are the best!

ALL:
Yo ho and a Klein bottle of rum!

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER (spoken):
Everybody!

ALL:
How grand to be a mathematical pirate
To sail by trigonometry alone
Shoot cannonballs in elegant trajectories
That demonstrate the sections of the cone

Our treasure is our theorems and conjectures
More valuable than money in the bank
The mighty ocean trembles at our lectures
And English majors have to walk the plank

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER (spoken):
Captain, your turn!

CAPTAIN LAPLACE:
How grand to be a mathematical pirate
As captain I make sure that things get done
And when my sailors tell me:

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER (spoken):
"Aye aye, captain!"

CAPTAIN LAPLACE:
I answer "i times i is minus one!"

I use my expertise in charting vectors
To navigate the sinusoidal sea
My sextant angles are displayed in radians
My captain's log of course is log base e

CAPTAIN LAPLACE (spoken):
Arrr, I be Captain Pierre Simon de Laplace, at your service, terror of the seven plus or minus two seas. I've burnt down the bridges of Konigsberg, stolen the Borsuk-Ulam necklace, and navigated the treacherous Dirac Delta. Of course, it hasn't been easy. I got this patch here during me last battle with the king's men. Now I'm a complex pirate.

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER: (spoken)
A complex pirate?

CAPTAIN LAPLACE (spoken):
Arrr, one pirate minus one eye.

ALL:
How grand to be a mathematical pirate
To sail by trigonometry alone
Shoot cannonballs in elegant trajectories
That demonstrate the sections of the cone

Our treasure is our theorems and conjectures
More valuable than money in the bank
The mighty ocean trembles at our lectures
And English majors have to walk the plank

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER (spoken):
Navigator, your turn!

NAVIGATOR:
With just me trusty compass and me straight edge
I construct a course through near and far
My treasure map coordinates are polar
So I can give directions using

ALL:
Arrrrrrrrrrr

NAVIGATOR:
Let storms assault us for I do not fear 'em
Let monsters rise up, for we shall not fall
We sail in search of Fermat's final theorem
And that's the greatest treasure of 'em all

ALL:
How grand to be a mathematical pirate
To sail by trigonometry alone
Shoot cannonballs in elegant trajectories
That demonstrate...

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER: (spoken)
Everyone! Come quick! The white whale has been sighted to starboard! The white whale!

CAPTAIN LAPLACE: (spoken)
Arrrr, all you can prove is that there's a whale to starboard, at least one side of which is white.

INFINITELY LONG JOHN SILVER: (spoken)
What kind of white whale has only one side?

CAPTAIN LAPLACE: (spoken)
Arrrr, Moebius Dick.

ALL:
...the sections of the cone

Our treasure is our theorems and conjectures
More valuable than money in the bank
The mighty ocean trembles at our lectures
And English majors have to walk the plank

CAPTAIN LAPLACE (spoken):
Arrr, it's a good life, a mathematical pirate is. You'll fit right in. But tell them what we do to mutineers.

NAVIGATOR (spoken):
We integrate them!

CAPTAIN LAPLACE (spoken):
And tell them what that means.

NAVIGATOR (spoken):
We bound them and then slice them into infinitesmal little pieces.

CAPTAIN LAPLACE (spoken):
And after that, we throw them overboard.

NAVIGATOR (spoken):
Arrr, yes, I always forget at the end you have to add c!

ALL: Let storms assault us for we do not fear 'em
Let monsters rise up, for we shall not fall
We sail in search of Fermat's final theorem
And that's the greatest treasure of 'em all

ALL: (spoken)
Arrrrrrr!

+ + +

Thomas Aquinas' Song


LYRICS:
I greatly fear
It would appear

Theology is just a scam
A pseudoscientific sham
Unproductive and confusing
All the garbled terms it's using

While the other arts advance
Theology makes angels dance
On the heads of sewing pins
While counting out a list of sins

And I suspect
Some would object

Objection one, it isn't fun
Objection two, it isn't true
Objection three, it's not for me
Objection four, it's such a bore

But on the cont'ry, Scripture said
Eventually you'll turn up dead
And when you do, you'll want to know
Exactly which way you should go

So to this chat
I answer that

Theology, theology
It isn't just tautology
It edifies your being like
A spiritual technology

You attack it, you critique it
But you secretly still seek it
God and goodness are the ends
To which your very nature tends

It's not just my opinion
It's a fact teleological
From some of reason, some of faith
And summa theologica

And that is why
I would reply

I reply objection one
Theology is plenty fun
And I reply objection two
God's highest in the genus "true"

And I reply objection three
That Jesus died for you and me
And I reply objection four
That with these teachings you can soar

Beyond just words and theory in
To the high Empyrean
All these concepts, once you've known 'em
Lead you to the summum bonum

Let yourself be led to God
By teachings pedagogical
From some of reason, some of faith
And summa theologica.
+ + +

Battle Hymn of the Republic of Letters

(there are no less than four errors of historical fact or inference. For one thing, Genghis Khan did not sack Baghdad. But for arts sake, we'll give these guys a pass. The lyrics are just too clever.)

LYRICS:

CERUNE:
Truth is not confined to notebooks, nor the fragile human brain
Though Fermat is dead and buried, his discoveries remain
In Platonic realms far loftier than this margin can contain
The truth is margin on!

Glory, glory aletheia! Glory, glory aletheia!
Glory, glory aletheia! Glory, glory aletheia!
Glory, glory aletheia! Glory, glory aletheia!
The truth is margin on!

They put books to the torches when the Inquisition churned
It erased what had been written, couldn't touch what had been learned
We're Prometheus' fire, which cannot itself be burned
It just goes margin on!

(chorus)

They murdered Archimedes with his circles yet undone
How much loftier now the circles where his children's children run
They arrested Galileo, but they couldn't arrest the Sun
Truth just keeps margin on!

(chorus)

They burnt down Alexandria, of libraries the first
And Genghis Khan razed Baghdad, and its learning was dispersed
But now we've got the Internet, so Mongols, do your worst!
The truth keeps margin on!

(spoken: My friends! We have been marginalized for too long! This is an e-margin-cy, a call to marginal revolution! Once we are margin under our own banners, we will be limited by nothing but our own i-margin-ation!)

So despite the many setbacks truth encounters on its way
On the margin each tomorrow will be brighter than today
We will rise up from the margins and continue, come what may
As truth goes margin on!

(chorus)



11 comments:

  1. I remember when one of the participants of this (I think he was one) first posted this to the Facebook Thomism Discussion Group. (I'm one of the admins there.) We had a real swell time laughing at all the songs. You really ought to check out the Dungeons and Discourse Rulebook that he linked to as well, it is a REAL hoot! I'll post some samples from it for your laughing pleasure.

    Here's the Rulebook. It's basically like Dungeons and Dragons, but philosophy-based and thus chock-full of philosophy references/jokes.
    http://slatestarcodex.com/Stuff/DDThird_Edition.pdf

    For example, some of the skills wielded by the character type Ethicist:

    SUMMON: TROLLEY
    TYPE: targeted
    COST: W
    TIMING: 1
    DURATION: 3
    SPELL: You summon a trolley that can only be redirected by those willing to sacrifice their principles. Cast on a target and place three counters. At the end of each turn, remove one counter. When all counters are gone, a runaway ethereal trolley hits the target, dealing 20 mental and 10 physical damage. However, at any time, any character with a morality can “bid” Virtue points to redirect the trolley to a new target. The target the trolley hits is the one that has garnered the highest Virtue bid when the last counter is removed."

    BECOME: END IN ITSELF
    TYPE: self, feat, kantian
    SPELL: Become an end in yourself, with an inherent moral value that resists being used as part of other people's plans. You gain +1 Influence over yourself, and may add +1 Luck bonuses to your saving throws when you reach Virtue Levels 4, 5, and 7.

    SUMMON: PARASITIC VIOLINIST
    TYPE: targeted, noncumulative
    COST: 2W
    TIMING: 1
    DURATION: 10
    SPELL: Cast on an enemy. Summons a parasitic violinist with 10 HP who attaches herself to the target. Each turn after the first, the violinist sucks 4 HP from the target, regardless of armor or other defenses. After ten turns, the violinist recovers her health and leaves the target, and the target gets +3 Virtue and (as a gift of gratitude) a Magic Violin, which allows one casting of the spell Senseless Violins. Alternately, the target may also kill the parasitic violinist before this point by dealing 10 damage, thus avoiding the HP loss. This costs the target -3 Virtue.

    PETER SONG
    TYPE: area, utilitarian
    COST: 3W
    TIMING: 1
    DURATION: 3
    SPELL: A peter singer feels deep empathy for animals and so gains +2 Influence over all non-human animals within hearing range.

    BECOME: NIETZSCHEAN UBERMENSCH
    TYPE: self, feat, immoralist
    SPELL: Become the Ubermensch, a paragon of human excellence. You gain +5S and +W. Your will is so strong that even the mightiest of deeds no longer seem daunting to you: therefore, the cost of every spell is reduced by W. Spells that previously cost W are now free!

    Some skills of the character type Apologist:

    INVERSE COMMUNION
    TYPE: targeted, catholic
    COST: W
    TIMING: 1
    SPELL: Transforms the victim's body to bread and their blood into wine, doing physical damage equal to your Virtue. Any enemy killed by this spell turns into high-quality edible supplies.

    SUMMON: PAPAL BULL
    TYPE: summon, Catholic, papal
    COST: W
    TIMING: 1
    DURATION: 3
    SPELL: Summons an Ensouled Dire Bull that deals double damage against Protestants.

    SUMMON: COLLEGE OF CARDINALS
    TYPE: summon, catholic, papal
    COST: W
    TIMING: 1
    DURATION: 3
    SPELL: Summon (1d4 + your Virtue level) Ensouled birds that deal double damage to Protestants. Each bird may cast the spell Pray once per turn, though the spell remains non-cumulative.

    Here's the comic it was based off of, also a real hoot:
    http://dresdencodak.com/2006/12/03/dungeons-and-discourse/

    ReplyDelete
  2. How did you ever find such a wondrous thing OFloinn. It's Lewis Carroll all over again!

    "Arrr, yes, I always forget at the end you have to add c!"
    LOLZ!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pardon me, Sir, but I am to mathematics as the beasts of the field are to contrapuntal composition; but it seemed to me that there was only one properly esoteric joke in ‘The Mathematical Pirate Shanty’ – I had to look up the Borsuk-Ulam theorem, and I’m still not sure what it has to do with a necklace. (I haven’t the skill to navigate Dirac’s Delta myself, but at least I get the reference.) Were there some really subtle obscurities in there that I may have missed?

    (By the way, the lyrics are indeed exceedingly clever, but I find the audio files painful to listen to because of the rinky-dink MIDI backing tracks. I forget the name of the drum sound that is produced by rhythmically whacking the inside of a Dutch oven with an underdone pork sausage, but I recognized it when I heard it. This is a pity; the songs would, I believe, have sounded lovely if recorded in the Tom Lehrer style, with no accompaniment but a piano. Sometimes less is much, much more.)

    The third song, with its claptrap about Galileo and the Library of Alexandria (which you have written so ably to correct), leaves me rather too exasperated to enjoy it properly. But I can thank you sincerely for calling the others to my attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As Thomas Aquinas wrote: One man's esoterica is another man's plain fact. There are those to whom "forget to add 'sea'" is a bizarre thing to say. The mileage may differ for the beasts of your field, but Ye Olde Statistician surely appreciates the seven seas "plus or minus two."

      There is a lot more mathematical and philosophical fru-fru at the libretto(?) found at the very first link: http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/08/17/fermats-last-stand-soundtrack-and-adventure-log/

      The amateurishness is I think part of the charm.

      Delete
    2. Alright, enlighten me re "four errors of historical fact or inference"

      The only statements of fact that I find are:

      1) Though Fermat is dead and buried. (He is dead, and he has a tomb, so I believe he was buried)

      his discoveries remain In Platonic realms far loftier than this margin can contain ( reference to the story that his famous Last Theorem was written in the margin of a book. This is true is it not?)

      They put books to the torches when the Inquisition churned (The Spanish inquisition is known to have organized several book burnings)

      They murdered Archimedes with his circles yet undone (The only accounts we have indicated that Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier when Rome conquered Syracuse, whether he was or was not drawing circles etc. at the time of his death is unprovable but is likely an apocryphal story but one can't say it is a false statement of fact)

      They arrested Galileo, but they couldn't arrest the Sun (Galileo was placed under house arrest after being "convicted" in the Heliocentrism controversy)

      They burnt down Alexandria, of libraries the first (The library at Alexandria was burned, probably several times, perhaps by accident and perhaps on purpose and it was the most famous library of its day so it could be "first in rank" even if not first in time)

      And Genghis Khan razed Baghdad, and its learning was dispersed (Genghis Khan did attempt to attack Baghdad but was unsuccessful in his lifetime but only 20-30 years after his death the Mongols did succeed in sacking Baghdad which was a center of learning in the Arabic world"

      So the only wrong "fact" is that Ghengis Khan sacked Baghdad and even that is excusable as poetic license since Ghengis Khan certainly helped set in motion the chain of events that resulted in the destruction of Baghdad.

      However if I am wrong, please do educate me.

      Delete
    3. The gist of the song is that the events were conducted deliberately in order to suppress "knowledge."

      "They" did not murder Archimedes. He was killed, according to the story, by looting soldiers in the aftermath of the siege of Syracuse. Marcellus had given orders that he was to be taken alive.

      "They" did not burn Alexandria's library. The only account that comes close is again in Plutarch. During J. Caesar's First Alexandrian War, fire set in the warehouse district to form a cleared area around the besieged Romans spread (due to the inflammability of naval supplies, tar, etc.) to warehouses where some books were stored. There is no mention of the Royal Library; but the story was cited by other ancient authors to explain why there was no longer a Royal Library. In fact, the Royal Library as such probably dissolved in the anti-Greek pogroms that followed the accession of Ptolemy the Sausage, since the library scholars are known to have supported his rival. In any case, there is no present-tense reference to it following his reign, and the list of Librarians comes to an end at that point.

      "of libraries the first." It wasn't. Like the fish that got away, its size has increased with each retelling after its dissolution. It was likely revived, restocked, dissolved again over the years; but scholarship in Alexandria was never dependent on the Ptolemy family granting access to their personal library. Its stock very likely formed the backbone of the Library of Athens and other depositories after the flight of the scholars mentioned above. It was neither the first nor last library. If you wish to read "first" metaphorically, feel free.

      The Inquisition did not normally burn books. That was the job of the Index, iirc. and of individual tribunals and peer review panels.

      The house arrest of Galileo was to confine him to the villa that he did not like to leave. No one tried to "arrest" the sun, in the sense that its mobility was taken as scientifically proven. He was convicted on a technical point of disobedience to an injunction, not because of the motion of the sun, per se. Details are elsewhere on this blog.

      Delete
  4. Those are some immensely clever lyrics, but that's some of the worst singing I've heard in years. Kind of a shame, really, as the lyrics are hilarious indeed.

    By the way, you should know that I was impressed enough by "The Olde Curmudgeon" that I went and purchased January Dancer off of Amazon. I am not a heavy sci-fi reader, and I only found your blog off of Vox Day's link to it. So far I've been enjoying it, though the sheer number of characters and huge span of the action, coupled with all the accents, has kept me from following the story as close as I'd like. I particularly enjoyed the prehuman ship (City? Fortress? Prison? I'm still not quite clear on what it actually is.) and the strange impossible artifacts found within. In any event, if you were hoping that your blog would serve to advertise your books, it has, for me at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your compliment. As for the struggle to read it, recall Tom Paine's dictum that "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly..."

      Delete
  5. Putting the words "i times i is minus one" in the mout of a pirate who is "minus one i" is clever.

    It is even a clever judgement about Gauss.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As you can see my keyboard is as short of h as the speec of a cockney. (But have you ever heard a cockney say "mout"?)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks be to you, OFloinn!

    Not least for the ... buried treasure? ... linked-to in the credits of the linked-to piece, to wit:

    Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

    ReplyDelete

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