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that a scratch may have some curvature


(squared, rearranged)
illustrating Wm. H. Roever. “Geometric explanation of a certain optical phenomena.”The American Mathematical Monthly 26:3 (March 1919) : 111-112
Princeton copy, digitized January 11, 2010

“In the parcel checking-room of the new Union Station at Kansas City, Missouri, there is a counter covered with brass plates which have, during the course of time, received numerous scratches by the baggage which is moved around upon the counter. The scratches are not very deep and they seem to be of fairly uniform distribution in both density and direction, as one might expect them to be after the cause of their formation has been in operation for some time...”   p 111

I like imagining this mathematician, inspired by scratches on the checking-room counter at Union Station, Kansas City.

Here’s another counter — in a hardware store — whose every scratch records a human transaction and trajectory —

“The countertop was an old-fashioned laminate, put in the store in the mid nineteen-fifties. Mrs. Powell was a girl then, she liked the stars, and books about space adventurers — her grandfather let her choose the counter top. She told Delbert that she believed that one day man would venture out into outer space, where, she prophesied, some goddamn land speculator would follow and ruin everything.”

“Golden planets whirled across the counter, but between the cash register and the display stands, the worn laminate was faded from decades of goods and money exchanged over it. Scratches marred the laminate, like the paths of straying meteors, or space junk perhaps, the dirt of expanding civilization. Delbert nudged aside the display stand hung with packets of AA batteries with his elbow. Beneath the batteries the golden stars glowed like new, the planets spun in pristine space.”
— B. C. Legans. Cerro (2009)

14 June 2014

counters; hardware stores; mathematics; scratches; trajectories
W. H. Roever; B. C. Legans, Cerro (2009)