Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematicsin the Popular Press

"Coffee Mates: An artist and a mathematician share a readymade' brew," byRhonda Roland Shearer. The Sciences, March/April 1997, pages 14-15.

This article, written by an artist with an interest in mathematics, describesintriguing parallels between ideas of the mathematician Henri Poincar\'e andthe work of the artist Marcel Duchamp. In a popular essay published in 1908,Poincar\'e analyzed his creative processes when he made a certain mathematicaldiscovery. He spoke of allowing his unconscious'' mind to produce manydifferent ideas from which his conscious'' mind would select. Duchampcreated many works which he called `readymades''---displays of everydayobjects such as a bicycle wheel, a snow shovel, or a hat rack. The articlesuggests that, influenced by Poincar\'e's analysis of creativity, Duchamp sawhis readymades as a selection of objects from the unconscious mind of society.