Sunday, February 1, 2015

View From the Top of the Forest...

This Sunday re-running a quote from Keith Devlin that I first posted last year and that derives originally from his Sept. 2013 appearance on NPR's wonderful "On Being" podcast :
"...that's when I became a mathematician; that's what I stumbled on at age 15 or 16 when here I was learning all this mathematics because I needed it. I had a utilitarian view of mathematics. I was learning it because I needed to solve the equations because I was going to be solving them in physics. And then, at the age of about 16 or 17, it all fit because it all came together in my mind. It was no longer this disjointed collection of techniques you could use to solve problems. It all fell into place, into this wonderful landscape. It was as if I'd been stumbling around in a forest, and suddenly I've climbed to the top of a tree and looked out and thought, this is the most beautiful place in the world. You can't tell it when you're down in the trees, which I had been, but the moment you reach an elevation where it all falls into place and you can see the whole topographic display in front of you, then the beauty is incredible. And the moment I discovered it, I said, um, I want to study mathematics. And I've been studying it ever since."

[p.s. -- just yesterday, Keith was in a bad biking accident, when some of his equipment failed... I believe the bicycle suffered more damage than Keith (at least his tweeting hand seemed to be working :-), but in any event, I'm sure we all wish him well in any recovery needed.]

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