Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Encounters With The Square Root of Two

A Character Sketch

Has, I'm sad to say
A wholly unengaging personality.

He first ran into me
At a party hosted by Pythagoras.

"Hello!" he cried. "I'm the square root of two -
Who are you?"

He denies it. But it's true.

Physical Habits
Picks his nose.

I was really quite surprised that, being an abstract numerical concept, he had a nose to pick
But he showed me - it was there
At about the five-hundred-trillionth decimal place.
I was too surprised to be shocked when he took the snot and rolled it into a gigantic ball and gave it a flick.
(It was his party trick).

He doesn't wash his hands.
He calls you on the phone while he is sitting on the toilet.
He shouts.
He makes raspberry sounds when he wants to enter into a conversation.
He scratches his groin when he wants to leave a conversation.
He collects rude jokes.
He shares rude jokes at breakfast.

Is not good company.

Has a dubious ancestry.

He tells some nonsense
About being the length of a hippopotamus
On a right-wing triangle.

But I don't believe him.
He lies all the time.
He is an impossible figure.

A Warning
Is monotonous -

He just goes on and on.

General Observations
Despite being monotonous
Should be kept away from theorems
And hypoteneuse.

They get wildly drunk
And just go on for hours
Talking about theology
Or higher powers
Or how to get a good square root
Or flowers.

Some accuse me
Of discriminating
(etc, etc, etc, etc, etc)

This is not true.

I much prefer e.

Is much nicer,
Likes to talk about interesting things,
And is, incidentally,
Quite beautiful -
Almost transcendentally.


Karen said...

The mathematical humour really seems to work quite well for you!

Related but really quite gratuitous extract from Sylvia Plath's journals about the "illict sensuous delight" of picking one's nose:

"I always have, ever since I was a child. There are so many subtle variations of sensation. A delicate, pointed-nailed fifth finger can catch under dry scabs and flakes of mucous in the nostril and draw them out to be looked at, crumbled between fingers, and flicked to the floor in minute crusts. Or a heavier, determined forefinger can reach up and smear down-and-out the soft, resilient, elastic greenish-yellow smallish blobs of mucous, roll them round and jellylike between thumb and forefinger, and spread them on the undersurface of a desk or chair where they will harden into organic crusts. How many desks and chairs have I thus secretively befouled since childhood? Or sometimes there will be blood mingled with the mucous: in dry brown scabs, or bright sudden wet red on the finger that scraped too rudely the nasal membranes. God, what sexual satisfaction!"

TimT said...

I'm all for gratuitous extracts about nose picking.

I originally stumbled across wikipedia entries about 86 and 88 and 7744 when googling for the square root of two. At work. Ah, procrastination!

Karen said...

It's really strange, because I was trying to find this Plath passage earlier today in a little burst of procrastination- and then you start talking about nose-picking and the square root of two! It's uncanny- unless, of course, there is some logical but not immediately apparent connection between numbers and nose picking!

TimT said...

Out of curiosity I just looked for the Wikipedia entry on nosepicking. It's entertaining, but I was rather hoping for more literary references. It's worth it for the picture and the caption that go with it, though!


Yes, in case you were wondering - I have no life!

Karen said...

That's OK. I also don't have a life, so I won't judge you!

I do like the bit about the "medical risks", although the lack of literary references is indeed disappointing. I've always been very self-conscious about this issue, as I'm prone to nose bleeds (although not so much in recent years) and I always think people make certain assumptions about we bleeders! It used to be very bad with sharp changes in weather or if it was very dry. I lived in Montreal for a little while and that place just didn't suit my nose at all!

Please tell me you are aware of all the wonderful stuff about noses in Tristram Shandy.

Charles Murton said...

The square root of two
Is an Ancient Greek national
Which explains why this number
Has never been rational!

It's a curious beast
It has no exact value
But it has a shrewd side
And it might try to sell you

Some ionical columns
Or perhaps a pet bird
Or a ticket or two
To the theatre ab


TimT said...

I always think people make certain assumptions about we bleeders!

Well, in my case...

No, I did not know about the proboscis probing, etc, in Tristam Shandy. Evidently another one to add to my list to read.

Great poem, Charles!

Imagine Spenser on nose-picking...

Then didde he poke a finger up his nose,
And probe and pick and roll and flick it outte,
And when his finger was all dirty, then he chewse
To poke instead his middle one for to digge groutte;
For he was one NOSE-PICCKER fulle devoute;
And some dayes would lie on bedde and pick for yeares,
Which caused those in compayne to shoutte
And beratte himme with chiddes and scowles and leares,
But he woulde sticke his pinky up his nose, and block up his eares...

Karen said...

The speed with which you can produce these Spenser parodies is awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time!

Tristram Shandy is concerned more with the size of one's (ahem) nose than it is with the probing of noses.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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