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Mathematics and Literature: Borgesí Library of Babel*

by

Kimmo Rosenthal
Union College

February 14, 2013
12:50 pm
Bailey Hall 201

Refreshments will be served in Bailey Hall 204 at 12:40


Abstract:

Jorge Luis Borges is considered one of the greatest authors of the last century and many of his stories raise interesting connections with mathematics, perhaps none more so than The Library of Babel . In discussing this story and several others such as The Book of Sand, The Aleph, and Funes, the Memorious, we will encounter diverse mathematical topics such as logic and set theory (infinite sets), measure theory (infinitesimally small sets), topology, and more briefly combinatorics, randomness, and information theory. This talk is intended to be accessible to a wide audience, prerequisites being an interest in both mathematics and literature. There will be also some personal musings as to why I find myself drawn to both mathematics and literature for similar reasons.

ďAn explorerís task is to postulate the existence of a land beyond the known land. Whether or not he finds that land and brings back news of it is unimportant. He may choose to lose himself in it forever and add one more to the sum of unexplored lands.Ē Gerald Murnane, The Plains.

*It is strongly suggested that those attending the talk read The Library of Babel. It is only 7 pages and will take 15-20 minutes to read - copies are available in the Mathematics Department or by e-mailing Linda Jorgenson (jorgensl@union.edu).


For additional information, send e-mail to math@union.edu or call (518) 388-6246.
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