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Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Interview with TERENCE TAO...

(via WikimediaCommons)
...well, okay, not by me :-( (maybe some day), but wonderful nonetheless. I stumbled across this 2009 interview with Dr. Tao from an Australian mathematics gazette, and (though I often avoid linking to pdfs) it's tooooo good not to pass along; many great responses from Terence (and no math required!):


Here's one interesting little Q & A exchange:
"Gazette: What was the best career advice you have ever received?

Tao:  Mostly people have led by example other than explicitly giving advice. I do remember one thing my advisor told me once, which was very useful. I was writing my first paper, and I put a little joke in it. I thought I was being smart. He took a look at me and said: ‘When you write a paper, this is something that will stay in the record for ever. Thirty years from now people will still read it. What you think is funny now, may not be funny thirty years from now’. He told me not to put jokes in my papers. Looking back, that was actually pretty good advice: don’t be a smart alec when you write. And it wasn’t a very good joke anyway."
And here's a second (non-pdf) interview with Dr. Tao from the Web (not as good as the above, but still good):


If perchance you're not familiar with him, Dr. Tao (Wikipedia page HERE) is one of the world's foremost mathematicians (a former Australian child prodigy of Chinese ancestry), a Fields Medalist, and currently professor at UCLA. A Smithsonian Magazine article on him here:


And his own mathematics blog here (which on rare occasions includes posts even I can understand! ;-):


Finally, another fascinating (and longish) piece below on Terence, his two gifted brothers, and the parents that raised them. It delves into both gifted and autistic children and is, I think, a super-read:


An excerpt:
"Billy Tao [the father] recalls that early on he and his wife were helped by the Gifted and Talented Children’s Association of South Australia, but they became uncomfortable with the fixation some parents in the association had with their children’s achievements and IQ ratings. The Taos had already seen the pitfalls of this approach during a trip to the US when they met Jay Luo, a prodigy who had earned a university science degree at age 12, but later dropped out during his PhD studies.
"'Many parents of gifted children tend to overestimate their children’s ability, they want to maximise speed,' says Billy. 'One thing I disagree about with the gifted-children movement is the emphasis on acceleration. Many gifted-education people, particularly teachers who have diplomas in gifted education, are all brainwashed with this idea of acceleration, acceleration, acceleration. What about lateral thinking? What about creativity?'
"In contrast to the effusive praise other parents heaped on their little Mozarts, the Taos avoided excessive flattery and downplayed the importance of winning."

[p.s... sorry to sound like a broken record, but if anyone (math blogger) is willing to be interviewed here for my series pleeease don't hesitate to let me know that -- it's far more efficient for me to contact people who have already consented to the process than to blindly send out inquiries and not know whether they'll be returned or are even received. I really like throwing a little extra attention to folks who are out there actively promoting math to a wider audience.]

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