Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Weight, comfort, inevitability

Lata went for poetry. On the way, however, she paused by the science shelves, not because she understood much science, but, rather, because she did not. Whenever she opened a scientific book and saw whole paragraphs of incomprehensible words and symbols, she felt a sense of wonder at the great territories of learning that lay beyond her — the sum of so many noble and purposive attempts to make objective sense of the world. She enjoyed the feeling; it suited her serious moods; and this afternoon she was feeling serious. She picked up a random book and read a random paragraph:

It follows form De Moivres's formula that zn = rn (cos n + i sin n). Thus if we allow complex number z to describe a circle of radius r about the origin, zn will describe n complete times a circle of radius rn as z describes its circle once. We also recall that r, the modules of z, written |z|, gives the distance of z from O, and that if z'=x'+iy', then |z-z'| is the distance between z and z'. With these preliminaries we may proceed to the proof of the theorem.

What exactly it was that pleased her in these sentences she did not know, but they conveyed weight, comfort, inevitability. [...]

She read the paragraph again, looking serious. "We also recall" and "with these preliminaries" drew her into a compact with the author of these verities and mysteries. The words were assured, and therefore reassuring: things were what they were even in this uncertain world, and she could proceed from there.

— from A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.
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