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Sunday, January 25, 2015

James Gleick On Mathematics

This week's 'Sunday reflection,' a few succinct lines from an old NY Times James Gleick piece:

"…unspoken, but always present, is the faith that doing mathematics purely, following an internal compass, seeking elegance and beauty in a strange abstract world, is the best way in  the long run to serve practical science. As physics or biology progress, they will inevitably find that the way ahead has been cleared by some odd piece of pure mathematics that was thought dead and buried for many decades."

"A physicist is content to say that the earth orbits the sun; a mathematician will say only that there is convincing evidence."

"It has been said that the ideal mathematics talk has three parts. The first part should be understood by most of your audience. The second part should be understood by four or five specialists in your field. The third part should be understood by no one -- because how else will people know you are serious?"

-- all from "But Aren't Truth and Beauty Supposed To Be Enough?" NY Times, August 1986; anthologized in "The New York Times Book of Mathematics"

[…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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