## Pure Math, Pure Joy 315

Posted
by
michael

from the msri-loves-company dept.

from the msri-loves-company dept.

e271828 writes

*"The New York Times is carrying a nice little piece entitled Pure Math, Pure Joy about the beauty and applicability of pure math as carried out at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. There is an accompanying slideshow of pictures of mathematicians in action; I particularly loved the picture titled Waging Mental Battle with a Proof."*
## Visualizing the solution... (Score:4, Interesting)

Very cool article! I liked the statement:

"Nobody knows when some abstruse bit of math will float off a blackboard at a place like this and become a..."It reminded me of the radiant primes observation [radiantprimes.com]I imagine it will be a method similar to this that helps us discover the first billion digit prime number, not some brute-force method. Speaking of prime numbers & slightly off-topic, on 5/31/2003 there was an eclipse (solar) over Norway from 4:43AM to 6:41AM. 5, 31, 2003, 443 & 641 are all prime...

## Is this really true? (Score:4, Interesting)

But the "unreasonable effectiveness" of mathematics in explaining the world, as the physicist Eugene Wigner once put it, is a minor motivation at best for those immersed in the field. Most mathematicians say they are in it for the math itself, for the delirious quest for patterns, the thrill of the detective chase and the lure of beautiful answers.I sure hope this isn't really true. If mathematicans aren't really interested in helping understand the world, why should society fund them? I certainly know that a major motivation for my career in science is that understanding the world through science will help people, cure diseases, etc.

## Re:Is this really true? (Score:3, Interesting)

So what if the mathematicians work primarily because they enjoy math? So what if the practical applications that come of it are just a side effect? We still get those benifits; does it really matter that those benifits weren't the primary purpose of doing the work?

## Re:Is this really true? (Score:3, Interesting)

## Re:Is this really true? (Score:3, Interesting)

Because they're able to create beauty, like artists and writers and musicians do.This is a poor analogy. Artists, writers and musicians put their art works in places that the general public can find them. Society would never pay to create "beauty" that is impenetrable to almost anyone who does not spend full time in the field. Even "modern art" is shown in museums that millions of people go to every years. The better argument in defense of mathematics is its utility. I'm glad that mathematicians find beauty in what they do but I wouldn't offer to pay for it if I didn't think it was likely to be useful to me or my descendants.

## Re:Is this really true? (Score:3, Interesting)

So what if the mathematicians work primarily because they enjoy math? So what if the practical applications that come of it are just a side effect? We still get those benifits; does it really matter that those benifits weren't the primary purpose of doing the work?Well, I guess I'm somewhat annoyed by the way Hollywood likes to present scientists -- as people similar to the way the article described mathematicans -- that is people that just like puzzles, not worrying about the consequences, even if it means creating some evil world-destroying weapon in the process. That always struck me as a rather offensive stereotype.

## One of life's simple pleasures (Score:4, Interesting)

This article also reminded me of a good book (story wise, not much math) that a lot of you have probably read. It's called Fermat's Enigma [amazon.com]. If you haven't read it you should. It's a really good book and an easy read. I might even make you want to read a real math book again ;)

## Coffee into theorems (Score:5, Interesting)

Erdos himself was a device for converting speed into theorems. Ironically he lived to be 83 years old, prolifically creating new math until the very end.

My guess is that more mathematicians use amphetamines than is commonly acknowledged. This is how some older mathematicians try to keep their "edge".

BTW have you computed your Erdos Number [oakland.edu]?

## How about RSA. (Score:3, Interesting)

## Re:Visualizing the solution... (Score:2, Interesting)

## Re:Is this really true? (Score:4, Interesting)

artists are the most backstabbing bastards on the planet when it comes to enjoying each others work, and if you dont know who is "so cool" to be into this week, they will reject your conversation at a blink of an eye. try talking to a real artist about di vinci or the turner prize (or basically anyone/thing who we as the public are subjected to), and get nothing but "you are sooo not cool" looks form them. then try talking to a mathematician about euclid and try to pry yourself out of the conversation! artists disassociate themselves from society by choice, mathematicians are rejected and want back.

btw, check out arxiv.org; every math/physics release in the last 10 years has been put there free for anyone to look at; last gallery i went to, i had to pay £5 at the door.

## Re:Visualizing the solution... (Score:3, Interesting)

Which word of four letters can be added to the front of the following words to create other English words?

CARD BOX CODE BAG HASTE

Well, "HASTE" pretty much gives the answer away. But wait, what is a postbox, postcode or postbag? I could make a guess as to what they are, but I've never heard ANY of them used before. As it turns out, all three of those terms are exactly what they sound like, but are generally used in the U.K. or Australia. For example "postcode" did not enter Webster's American Dictionary until 1967. I filed this one under "biased towards other nationality or experience with foreign lingo".

It's hard to create an unbiased test intelligence, I agree. But I do expect those who write the tests to be smarter than the average genius and actively looking for slip ups like words that are colloquialisms of smaller areas or lists that contain one symmetric and one prime number and asking which is unique.

## Re:Waging mental battle with a proof (Score:1, Interesting)

think, i.e. a book, as opposed to film, where the audience can sit and choose whether to be force-fed an image (which will convey less than the printed word) or ignore the screen (which willalsoconvey less than the printed word).## 0, 1, 2, ? (Score:4, Interesting)

Obviously there are many solutions. Extra points for the largest possible number (with a decent explanation)

0 -> 0 = 0

1 -> 1 ! = 1

2 -> 2 ! ! = 2

3 -> 3 ! ! ! = 6 ! ! = 720 ! approx. 2.6 E+1746

Any higher ??

## Re:Mensa is right based on Ockhams razor (Score:4, Interesting)

But the whole point with this question type is that the answer you get depend very much on what assumptions you make.The question should be unambiguous, otherwise you are testing to see if people "think like you". If you call it an intelligence test then you must be the definition of intelligence. The question should have opened by stating that these symbols should not be interpretted as representing mathematical numbers.

The Mensa/ Ockham's razor based approach is to find the solution which makes the fewest possible assumptions.I think you are misusing Ockham's razor. Ockham said entitites should not contain any uneccesary multiplications. Theorizing that one number is unique because it is prime and the others are not does not contain any unecessary assumptions as primality is a basic feature of certain numbers that is true of them regardless of the system used to express them.

## Re:Pure Math (Score:4, Interesting)

Seriously though, it's a circle. Philosophy is just psych. Psych is just biology. Biology is just chemistry. Chemistry is just physics. Physics is just math. And math is just philosophy

## Re:Is this really true? (Score:2, Interesting)

After discovering the basic principle of electromagnetic induction in 1831, Michael Faraday was asked by a skeptical politician what good might come of electricity. "Sir, I do not know what it is good for," Faraday replied. "But of one thing I am quite certain - someday you will tax it."