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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mathematicians As Mavericks (Sunday Reflection)

"Mathematicians are mavericks -- inventors and explorers of sorts; they create new things and discover novel ways of looking at old things; they believe things hard to believe, and question what seems to be obvious. Mathematicians also disrupt patterns of entrenched thinking; their work concerns vast streams of physical and mental phenomena from which they pick the proportions that make up a customized blend of abstractions, glued by tight reasoning and augmented with clues glanced from the natural universe. This amalgam differs from one mathematician to another; it is 'purer' or 'less pure,' depending on how little or how much 'application' it contains; it is also changeable, flexible, and adaptable, reflecting (or reacting to) the social intercourse of ideas that influences each of us…

"And here comes a peculiar aspect that distinguishes mathematics among other intellectual domains: Mathematicians seek validation inside their discipline and community but feel little need (if any) for validation coming from outside. This professional chasm surrounding much of the mathematics profession is inevitable up to a point because of the nature of the discipline. It is a Janus-faced curse of the ivory tower, and it is unfortunate if we ignore it."

-- Mircea Pitici from the Introduction to "The Best Writing On Mathematics 2013"

(p.s. -- I believe the 2014 edition of "The Best Writing On Mathematics" will be appearing in stores by the end of this month.)

[…If you have a favorite math-related passage that might make a nice Sunday morning reflection here let me know (SheckyR@gmail.com). If I use one submitted by a reader, I'll cite the contributor.]


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