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Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Little Backstory… the Erdos/Tao photo




A substitute ‘Sunday reflection’ today, because of my experience with a tweet last evening….

I’ve always loved the above photo (brings me a smile everytime) of a 10-yr.-old Terry Tao with Paul Erdös, which I dropped into a tweet last night — the look on the faces, the synchronous postures, the concentration, the shared passion…  It originally showed up on the ’Net in 2013 courtesy of Terry himself, and went somewhat viral at the time within math circles:
(...and a h/t to Patrick Honner who was the first to bring it to my own awareness, back then)

Is that not great! I thought it was iconic by now and viewed by everyone multiple times. But a few folks (responding to the tweet) apparently were not familiar with it, and while usually recognizing Erdös, were unsure of the youngster involved. So just to clear any confusion, am posting the little bit of history that I know (thanks again to Dr. Tao for sharing it originally -- apparently the pic comes from the University of Adelaide in Australia at an awards ceremony of the Australian Mathematics Competition,1985).
As some responders have noted, two people, bridging a large generation gap, one originally Hungarian, one originally Australian, who both came to America, and in different manners contributed so much to our joy of mathematics, and continue to delight us, in both death and life.

p.s... among Erdös' many noted linguistic idiosyncracies, he referred to young children as "epsilons," and as one of the commenters to Terry's original post says, he had finally found an interesting "epsilon." ;-)




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