Italian writer and magician
working for a better Rule #34:
«If it exists, there is magic of it.
If not, let’s make it!»







 2014 (36)



Science Foo Camp (or “Sci Foo”) is an invitation-only gathering organized by Digital Science, O'Reilly Media, and Google, with support from Nature. The 9th edition of Sci Foo takes place on 8-10 August 2014 at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Lord Martin Rees has defined it as “a sort of mini Woodstock of the Mind”. Participants include researchers, writers, educators, artists, policy makers, investors, and other thought leaders, all doing groundbreaking work in diverse areas of science and technology.


Magic & Poetry

Knuth’s “Disappearances”: my Oulipian creative tool

Posted on sunday 15 june 2014, 54 days before scifoo14 • Written by Mariano Tomatis

In 1880 the Art Lithographers Wemple & Company (New York) edited “The Magic Egg Puzzle” (1), a rather curious postcard to be cut in three pieces. In the original arrangement, the picture shows a chicken with 10 eggs:

After interchanging the upper pieces, one egg has vanished:

See here many similar puzzles.

The topic of “Vanishing puzzles” has been widely analysed by Martin Gardner. In 1981 Donald E. Knuth composed a poem in his honor — “Disappearances” (2), which incorporated the same magic properties of a vanishing puzzle.

After interchanging the right-hand portions of the poem, the eight-line verse becomes a seven-line verse. Which line disappears?

Some days ago Knuth’s poem has been featured on Futility Closet blog; in the occasion I have worked on an Italian adaptation of the text. In order to ease my task, I have created a Magic Poems Editor, an online tool which help in keeping track of the internal constraints. A rather Oulipian exercise!

My creative tool for playing at the intersection between Magic and Poetry is free and available here.

If you come across an excellent poem (or a good adaptation in a foreign language), please share the results with me: I will publish them!


(1) Martin Gardner, Wheels, Life, and Other Mathematical Amusements, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York 1983, p. 129.

(2) D.A. Klarner (ed.), The Mathematical Gardner, Wadsworth International, Belmont (California) 1981, p. 264.

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