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The Essay
Show #78
Vermont Composers Glow Dimly
David Gunn
"Topology, topology, emorphalous topology." So begins an incantation from the Third Book of Bipolar Mathematics by August Mobius, who made famous the month which bears his name. Topology -- or, the study of tops and their inversely comical, conical relatives ... um, on second thought, they don’t seem to have any relatives, so never mind. Some of you may ask, why study tops? The answer is, to get government grants to study even more abstruse science. For years, federally-funded government grants have padded the staffs of research scientists to analyze numerous topologically perplexing conundrums, including the four-color theorem, the riddle of the Klein bottle, the Konigsberg Bridge problem, anal-retentive group theory intrigues, the temporal relevance of the Algonquin Hole, Torus the flycatcher’s mysterious disappearance, and August Mobius strip’s mail order catalogue difficulties. Implications of the Algonquin Hole theory, notwithstanding an absence of temporal relevance, have already been dismissed, although not necessarily in the present time-space continuum, where even better dilemmas persist. For example, which points of a sandwich are very close to one another and which are not? Does the answer to this query tend to keep you up at nights? Would you be more prone to insomnia after learning that your tax dollars paid a relative of Harald Ulrik Sverdrup a sum of cash greater than the length of Delaware’s coastline to ponder the problem, and that, due to a clever grandfathering of the original 1930 contract, continues today in a swank research resort in the scenic hills of Zacatecas, Mexico? While boot-licking legislators pull plug after plug on piddlingly puny expenditures for arts and crafts programs and symphonic radio stations sell their very souls in monthly pledge drives, research scientists continue to enjoy skiing holidays and chauffeured limousine service to three-star eateries while churning out the occasional two-page double-spaced progress report on the tendency of mold to migrate from one point on a sandwich to another, and why that point is inversely proportional to another point which either is very close or isn't. Aspects of the space and space-time continuum aside, this is proof that topology, if nothing else, is profitable. For example, we know that topologically identical figures are said to be homeomorphic, or, like a home mortgage. This may sound pretty obvious and even a little silly, but it helped put Sverdrup's three cousins through medical school at Syracuse without student loans. What can be done about this vexing funding problem? Simple. Pay us, instead. Just write your federal legislators in care of Washington, DC and tell them to please cease all subsidies for topological research at once. And since the cash has already been appropriated, it’s entirely appropriate to pass it over to another needy constitutent, i.e., Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this portion of which may one day be topologically remanded into listenable snippets of a future Best of the Bazaar, the insistant presence of le flambeau oriange notwithstanding.

Topology, much like this very radiophonic program, does not deal with smoothness or size, preferring instead matters such as bashing Torus the flycatcher with a Klein bottle and jotting down the results, which could be instructive, indulgent, insubstantial, involuntary, at the very least profitable, and at the very most Kalvosian.