Archive for June, 2010

An excerpt from Ian Stewart on Cardan

June 24, 2010

Like many mathematicians of the period, Girolamo practiced astrology, and he notes the astrological circumstances surrounding his birth:

“Although various abortive medicines – as I have heard – were tried in vain, I was normally born on the 24th day of September in the year 1500, when the first hour of the night was more than half run but less than two-thirds… Mars was casting an evil influence on each luminary because of the incompatibility of their positions, and its aspect was square to the moon.

…I could easily have been a monster, except for the fact that the place of the preceding conjunction had been 29 degrees in Virgo, over which Mercury is the ruler and neither this planet nor the position of the moon or the ascendant is the same nor does it apply to the second decanate of Virgo; consequently I ought to have been a monster, and indeed was so near it that I came forth literally torn from my mother’s womb.  

So I was born, or rather taken by violent means from my mother; I was almost dead. My hair was black and curly. I was received in a bath of warm wine which might have been fatal to any other child. My mother had been in labor for three entire days, and yet I survived.


Why Beauty Is Truth, Ian Stewart, 2007, Basic Books, USA




A Sufi story from Idries Shah

June 16, 2010

There was once a man who opened a restaurant, with a good kitchen, attractive tables and an excellent menu.

One of his friends came along soon afterwards, and said: ‘Why have you not got a sign, like all the other eating-places?  I suggest that you put on it “RESTAURANT: FINEST FOOD”.’

When the sign was painted and put up, another enquirer asked: ‘You have to be more specific-you might mean any old restaurant.  Add the words “SERVED HERE” and your sign will be complete.’

The owner thought that this was a good idea, and he head the signboard duly altered.

Not long afterwards someone else came along and said: ‘Why do you  put “HERE”?  Surely anyone can see where the place is?’

So the restauranter had the sign changed.

Presently a further curious member of the public wanted to know: ‘Do you not know that the word “SERVED” is redundant?  All restaurants and shops serve.  Why not take it out?’

So that word was taken out.

Now another visitor said: ‘If you continue to use the phrase  “FINEST FOOD”, some people will be sure to wonder whether it really is the finest, and some will not agree.  To guard against criticism amd contention, please do remove the word “Finest”.’

And so he did.  Now, just the word “FOOD” was to be seen on the notice, and a sixth inquisitive individual put his head through the doorway.  ‘Why have you got the word “FOOD” on your restaurant: anyone can see that you serve food here.’

So the restauranter took down the sign.  As he did so, he could not help wondering when somebody who was hungry, rather than curious or intellectual, would come along…

Idries Shah, Learning How to Learn, Arkana (1993) UK


June 3, 2010

Correlate wages with longevity.  Data with insurance companies.