Last month David Bindel, currently a grad student at the University of California (Berkeley), reminisced about his first two undergraduate years at the University of Maryland (College Park). Among many fascinating recollections was a critique scribbled in the margin of one of David's papers by the professor who taught the honors seminar "Knowledge and Its Human Consequences":

You write beautifully, but do you always have to be so relentlessly linear?

The phrase relentlessly linear grabbed me by the throat and shook me—perhaps because unremitting, plodding linearity is one of my stylistic fetishes. Or so at times I flatter myself. A straight line means maximum efficiency. A perfect mathematical proof proceeds without digression from axiom to conclusion. Ideal communication, like poetry, like archery, sends its message into the bull's-eye. No wasted words.

But perhaps a nicer (in the sense of more precise, as well as more pleasing) goal is geodesic prose: writing that follows the shortest path in the curved space of the reader's mind, to maximize joy as well as bandwidth ...

(see esp. "College: Freshman, Sophomore" of 27 Jun 2005; cf. ReflectiveStudents (17 Mar 2004), ProofsAndRefutations (24 Jun 2004), StayingTheCourse (11 Jul 2005), ...)

TopicLanguage - TopicWriting - TopicThinking - TopicScience - 2005-07-23

(correlates: SmallIdeas, StayingTheCourse, MerleZimmermann, ...)