[For Dick Pountain]
Knowledge comes but hard and slow,
And much is hid that once we knew.
Much there is we cannot know;
Or, if we know, we misconstrue.
Gods are built on faith and prayer,
And faith demands divinity;
Math alone is truth laid bare,
The proof of all infinity.
Prime is prime, no ifs or buts,
Immutable as ‘3’, ‘1’, ‘7’;
You do not ‘feel it in your guts’:
Prime on earth is prime in heaven.
In his amusing biography of Paul Erdös The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, Paul Hoffman quotes the number theorist G. H. Hardy on the beauty and rigour of numbers which he believed ‘constitute the true fabric of the universe.’ Hardy postulated that the mathematician ‘is in much more direct contact with reality [than a physicist] who deals with the subject matter usually described as ‘real’. 317 is a prime, not because we think it is so, or because our minds are shaped in one way rather than another, but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way.’
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