Love through catastrophe

 
Published: Thursday 15 September 1994

-- The erratic rationale that has often led unrequited love to pen down its sighs has defied "scientific" comprehension. But recently, Fredric Jones of the University of Cardiff in the UK claims to have cut this emotional Gordian knot with a mathematical sword (New Scientist, Vol 143, No 1935). He used the Catastrophe Theory -- a branch of mathematics used to model complex events such as collapse of bridges -- to analyse the works of Francis Petrarch, thought to be the most lovesick poet of all time.

This 14th-century poet wrote about 240 poems to his beloved over a period of 21 years. The poems, known as the Canzoniere, are largely undated, much to the chagrin of scholars who have tried to chart out Petrarch's course of infatuation. Jones claims that he has not only unscrambled the poet's emotional chaos but has also placed his undated works in chronological order.

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