Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Bit of Serendipity

Since the prior post was heavy with some Tim Gowers material I can't help but point out another cosmic synchrony ;-) that materialized on the Web… A short while back Patrick Honner (who I just interviewed recently) posted this note on his blog:

...basically, he notes that a purported sine wave curve on a NY State math exam simply didn't look right to him at a glance ("too rounded"), and then goes on to show that his visual hunch was indeed correct upon closer inspection. The ensuing comments to his brief post are fascinating as well, but the capper is that about 10 days later, in a bit of serendipity, Tim Gowers writing on Google+ noted his immediate sense that a British air traffic control tower he'd passed by recently did not conform to a "mathematically natural shape," and wondered aloud "how acute this sense that mathematicians have is," at which point he stumbled upon Honner's post:

…it reminds me a wee bit of the old retort (applied when you succeed at something, and someone else says it was 'just luck'), that it seems 'the more I practice the luckier I get!' ...or, in-other-words, it's a skill developed from experience.
Having said that though I s'pose it's a bit difficult to know which is the cart and which is the horse here: i.e., do mathematicians have a special knack for recognizing certain patterns and forms because it's something their minds have experienced repeatedly (practiced)… or, is it that people who have a special or inborn aptitude for form and pattern recognition are more likely to end up in mathematics???

[p.s... if anyone hears the result of Tim Gowers' recent heart surgery and how he is doing, please report to us in the comments; I'm sure many would like to hear that all went well.]

ADDENDUM 11/10/12: Tim now has a detailed post up that he is back home recovering (with some discomfort) from the hopefully successful surgery:

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