Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Theologian, a Poet, and a Mathematician contemplate the mystery of the Creation

The whole meaning of the Universe   is contained in the Koran.
The whole meaning of the Koran, is contained in any Sura thereof.
The whole meaning of any Sura, may be confidently derived, from the deepest meaning, of any individual ayah of the same.
And that (for them that understand), from any one word within.
And  -- that -- from any letter therein.
And …  that    from but … the merest (least) [minimal] diacritical
   point thereon …..
-- Received Muslim wisdom

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
-- Wm. Blake

The period at the end of this sentence  looks, from afar, like a connected, dimension-0 manifold
-- Timothy Gowers, ed., The Princeton Companion to Mathematics (2008), p. 398

[Note to connoisseurs:  Notice that there is actually no period at the end of that sentence …]

The general idea expressed in the first two meditations  was classically denoted by the phrase ex pede Herculem (i.e., given knowledge of proportions, you could 'project' the full statue from the ruin remains of just a foot).

A more startling analogue from mathematics:  the "Reflection Principle" in Set Theory.

--  I fear lest the promising compound subject of the title of this post, may have misled many into explecting that the trio in question would jointly walk into a bar.  Alas!  I have as yet no continuation for that promising premise --  a fact lamented  here:

For a walk-into-a-bar joke, replete with religious mysticism:

For the contemplation of the afterlife by mathematicians, try this:
As for theologians, well, they’re well beyond that.


  1. [Note to connoisseurs: Notice that there is actually no period at the end of that sentence …]
    Actually, I *did* notice that!  Shouldn't the quotation end with an ellipsis if you didn't finish Gowers' sentence?

    Gematria is a silly idea.  It has the feeling of "something that could imaginably be true" but it's not actually true.  When you reconstruct a hologram from a single shard ex pede Herculem, either the result is a hologram of reduced fidelity or the original hologram was too large for purpose.  If you can truly detect the whole meaning of the universe from a single kasrah within the Qur'an, then why did the Prophet (ﷺ) waste so much ink on the rest of it?

    1. I did finish Gowers' sentence. He wittily omitted the period.
      As for the ellipsis-dots, I meta-wittily supplied them in my own . . . . ........