About streets, poetry and mathematics

October 15 2014

Hi everybody,

Last Thursday, Patrick Modiano received the Nobel Prize for Literature, but I would like to talk about another french writer whose work fascinates me: Jacques Roubaud. Mathematician, member of the Oulipo, he devoted his life to the study and production of poetry, he composed only by walking, without taking notes, memorizing the verses until he could write them down. "The Great Fire of London" is his masterpiece, he describes a mysterious "project" partly autobiographical, on a light tone, often funny and moving, in a complex structure full of Oulipian constraints. He manages to make us guess what may be the depth of literature, poetry and mathematics by organizing his knowledge and feelings in a story with "interpolations" and "bifurcations". If you love the game of go, the Grail cycle, troubadours, Japan, memory theories, libraries or literary games you should like these books. The first three «branches» have been translated into English as "The Great Fire of London," "The Loop" and "Mathematics:".

About mathematics, here is a conjecture of mine (I didn't find its description anywhere else):
The number 28 is the only number that can be written as a sum of the first n integers (1+2+3+4+5+6+7), m first primes (2+3+5+7+11) and p first non-primes (1+4+6+8+9). I was not able to prove it (I suspect it to be related to the Riemann hypothesis).

Some time ago, I had the idea of searching connections between the names of intersecting streets around me. I stumbled upon interesting stories, starting with those linking "Lugeol" street, where I live, and "Lacanau" street which crosses it. It happens that both streets have a relation with San Francisco:
Lacanau is a seaside resort near Bordeaux, it hosts the annual Lacanau Pro, the first international professional surfing competition to be born on French soil. Gabriel Medina won the 2011 edition at only 17 years and a few months later he triumphed at the San Francisco Rip Curl Pro Search.
Lugeol street is named after Dr. Lugeol, a doctor appreciated for his liberal ideas and his generosity. In 1856, he declared the birth of Clodomir Largarde of father unknown. It turns out that the mother was actually married and gave her maiden name to avoid a scandal: her husband, Urbain Balmigère, had left Bordeaux to San Francisco for at least 3 years and has since disappeared. I guess Balmigère gave in to the lure of the gold rush, but I do not know what became of him. Do any of you living in San Francisco have heard of the name Balmigère ?

A game : get outside, sit on a public bench or any other suitable place and note what you see or what the atmosphere inspires you, it can be as short as a koan. Send me the text accompanied by the name of the place where you did the observation. If you allow me to publish it, I will place your contributions on a google map.

A bench in Bordeaux (44.837055, -0.571995)
There are many pigeons here. Half a dozen children are running towards them, laughing, to make them fly, and then move away until the birds come back. Indeed they are returning, landing in a rustle of wings, in a wave that flows back again at the arrival of the children...
"So what happens in this book?" says the young mother to her son on the bench next to me, when I'm about to open my own. It makes me wonder if 'humans readings books on a bench' is as typical as pigeons coming and going...

Have a nice day!

Henri Bourcereau
[email protected]

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