Who said maths was boring?


I’m a words person. I read English at university and do crosswords for fun. So what should I have in common with maths maniacs? Well – reading Alex Bellos’s Alex through the Looking-Glass I was amazed to discover that before peer-reviewed articles as a way establishing “priority”, scientists would write a short sentence about their discovery, make an anagram of it, and send it to their friends, as a sort of one-way code – more or less impossible to crack, but proving the point if it was unravelled by the author.

Galileo was an great exponent of this, bombarding Kepler, no less, with smaismrmilmepoetale v m i b u n u g t t a v i r a s
which unscrambles as
Altissimum planetam tergeminum observari (I have observed the most distant planet to have a triple form – viz. Saturn), and then later
Haec immatura a me iam frustra leguntur – oy
which at least makes a sort of sense in Latin, but is really
Cynthiae figuras aemulatur Mater Amorum (The mother of love [Venus] imitates the figures of Cynthia [the Moon} i.e. has phases – I’m sure you got that straight away…)

But hold on now. Kepler thought the first sentence was to be read as
Salve umbisteneum geminatum Martia proles (Hail burning twin, offspring of Mars – meaning Mars has two moons) and the second as
Macula rufa in Jove est gyratur mathem etc (There is a red spot in Jupiter which rotates mathematically)
– both conjectures that are true but not to be proved until years later.

I therefore propose a new method of discovering novel scientific truths. Anagrammatise the key sentences of Hawking, Cox et al, and wait for the results to be proved. As long as you have a scientific brain the size of Kepler’s that is.

The title of this post anagrams to Atom has shadow wing ribs by the way. I await the scientific meaning of this allusive phrase to be found.