Thursday, July 08, 2004

The following bit from The Crying of Lot 49 puzzled me until I learned that Pynchon was, at one point, an engineering student at Cornell:
At some indefinite passage in night's sonorous score, it also came to her that she would be safe, that something, perhaps only her linearly fading drunkenness, would protect her.

I may have trouble with interpretation, but I know what linear fading means.

Update: more vestiges of an engineering education from Pynchon,

She knews, because she held him, that he suffered DT's. Behind the initials was a metaphor, a delirium tremens, a trembling unfurrowing of the mind's plowshare..."dt," God help this old tattooed man, meant also a time differential, a vanishingly small instant in which change had to be confronted at last for what it was, where it could no longer disguise itself as something innocuous like an average rate; where velocity dwelled in the projectile be frozen in midflight, where death dwelled...

Thank God someone is educating english majors about infinitesimals.


At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sasha, you know you're officially in charge of teaching me these science things, right? :)


At 6:52 AM, Blogger alex said...

yes! :)

linearly fading means it decreases at a constant rate.

dt -- infinitesimals -- is this bullshit given to first year calculus students -- a rhetorical trick that makes teaching the stuff easier -- it represends the way Leibniz thought about calculus back in the day. This bullshit is not really true unless you spend a few hundred pages coming up with definitions that make it true, but somehow it makes sense to their freshman ears...


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