Most prefaces in any written article one cares to pick are often long winded and useless, only boosting the ego of author x or z and so forth, and not giving any extra insight to the miserable reader. But on this rare occasion, a preface is well-deserved and needed by this remarkable work. As a fellow colleague and salt artist, I will attest to the orginality and crispiness of this product. But first some words about the author himself.
In those magical days of my first year at Bard, I encountered David Steinberg many a time in the college bookstore, molesting the newspapers and periodicals, and talking loudly to the employees, me being one of them. With his colorful garb and bearded face, he impressed me as someone who knew where his next eighty-six cents was going to- a fresh eighty-six cent bottle of Dr. Pepper that is. Already, I could see the beginnings of this very enterprise you are about to read floating in the back of his eyes. Of course this could have been glare coming from his contact lenses, but something was there nonetheless. The clarity, leprosy, and division that went into his project will be self-evident as his story unfolds in the following pages. It is a story of deepest despair and blathering elegance, reflecting Mr. Steinberg's everlasting commitment to social justice for his fellow creatures.
Speaking of fellow creatures, as a school of geese flies overhead, I am reminded of my fondness for my slick feathered brothers and sisters. Sadly, Bard College does not have ducks, but only a few dogs and insane cats and many chipmunks. Albany, New York, however, does possess the strangest collection of fowls in its Washington Park Lake. The crew varies from time to time, with more mallards than snow geese or vice versa, but I am always sure to look them up whenever I'm in town. The most peculiar ducks are the wacky Muscovite ducks, which are actually really not ducks at all, but some other kind of bird, as a reliable source tells me. I find this all quite extraordinary, because they sure look like ducks to me, except for their rather odd gnarly beaks which prompted their nickname, the "uglies." They also make noises that sound like an old radiator. But this rare breed of pseudo-ducks continues to flourish, for the last time I checked there were two more ugly ducklings in the family. I myself witnessed the miracle of life this past summer, after giving the mother a piece of calzone, prompting a rather rude display on the part of two male uglies. As a friend of Mr. Steinberg once remarked, "I shrunk up inside."
The more attentive reader will see the obvious connection between the identity of the Muscovites and the proofs of Theorems 1.2 and 1.3, although it might be more obvious in the sub-cases. When I asked Mr. Steinberg about this very point, after going over a rough draft, he denied that the Duck Identity Theorem was any inspiration to him at all, but did concede that the definition of "duck" is involved throughout the work. I refer the reader to Chapter Four ("Proofs Using Inducktion") to see the argument laid out in detail. Needless to say, the field of duck factorials is a fascinating and long neglected area of complex mathematics, and hopefully after reading Mr. Steinberg's work, the subject will be demystified.
The most endearing feature about this piece is the demands it puts on the reader to imagine unfamiliar new worlds. For Mr. Steinberg, math is philosophy, and philosophy math. Take the short but bold statement, "Suppose b is zero." Yes, indeed, suppose b is zero. And what then? Can language still be heard? The reader is dazzled and forced to accept the implications. This leap of logic has bitten the big toe of being and nothingness itself, and the entire human question can be restated. Our bearings are further checked again and again, until our very souls are touched, as if we were all Descartes himself, seeing equations in the starry numbers. Although his story exists in the timeless world of numbers, it is obvious that Mr. Steinberg is in touch with the fears of his generation, the greatest one of all being the fear of a mathematical planet.
Nor does Mr. Steinberg neglect the political side of the issue. A man who refuses to see one side of both issues, he points out the great social gap between the reals and the irrationals as marginal political groups. There is great irony in the statement, "Because the triangle inequality holds in the reals, we know that the radicas on the left side are greater than the ones on the right." The triangle inequality is shown as it really is: a repressive measure brought on by white heterosexual males against the tri-racial isolates of the Middle East. His theory is a call for equality and moderation. Therefore, "All three radicals are positive." All imbalances of power are equally ridiculous, and it follows that all radicals are unequally right.
Yes it is truly his work with ethereal numbers that is the most positive aspect of his undertaking. No one who calls himself Ethel can come away not deeply moved by their story without getting a runny nose. Mr. Steinberg has related the joy he has experienced in working with them. I myself am reminded of that famous line by the nineteenth century New England poet and math professor Erwin Gosset that runs like this: "Oh that they would come to me in ethereal numbers/My quicksilver thoughts/ Like so many ducks gathering tender cranberries." Indeed Mr. Steinberg's depiction of the ethereals comes across as if Gosset's "On the Ramshackle Float" was directly in mind. It is encouraging, nonetheless, to see how forcefully he handles the subject, not once referring to the base "bunch" as ethereal.
To finish this work it took a tremendous amount of courage, and it should be read bravely. The hypocrisy that has accumulated throughout the ages is blown away straight to Cleveland in this true song of the revolution. No matter that it came out of Bard, and I hope that this preface puts one in the right mind to receive it. As one duck said to the other duck, "Quok you too, buddy."
C. Searing 11-25-91
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