42 thoughts on “A Mathematician’s New Year’s Resolutions

  1. It is clear that you should use “obviously.” Even a freshman knows that such language can be intimidating and off-putting. And it is so trivial to use other language! Obviously, we should be better than this.

      • Hmm… It took mathematicians 25 years to come to terms with Dirac’s delta “function”. Physicists took to it instantly.

      • Physicists aren’t the only ones who have a thing for ‘nice’ functions.

        Many (umm, thirty five? thirty six?) years ago, seven of us were in
        the library working on an assignment for Quantum
        400-I-forget-the-number. There was the brainy guy, the other brainy
        guy, the other other brainy guy, the brainy girl, the other brainy
        girl, the brainy chemist guy

        and me.

        Despite all those brains, we made slow progress. I don’t remember the
        details (three and a half decades will do that) but I remember it was
        a fairly subtle problem. Eventually we made headway, though — we
        managed to prove some things about the solution. (I say ‘prove’ but a
        physicist’s proof is like Alanis’ irony — vaguely similar to the real
        thing, but not really the same at all.) “I bet” I told the assembled
        brains “that what we know about the functional form of the solution is
        sufficient. I bet there’s even a theorem.” We agreed to send a
        delegation to Dr. A because he was the physics prof that knew the most


        Dr. A talked for over an hour and what with his special cases and
        caveats and warnings, not only did we not learn the answer but we
        probably knew less at the end than when we started. The delegation
        trudged back to the library, disappointed, disheartened and

        “Maybe” one of the brainy guys suggested “maybe we need a Real
        Mathmematician. Do you know any of those, Rose?”

        Well, yes. I did. I knew a few but there was one in particular… He
        was approachable, friendly and he habitually wore cardigans so you
        could tell he was a Real Mathematician. Another delegation was formed
        and slogged over to the math building to talk to Dr D.

        We got there and found him in his office, doing mathematician-y
        things. He wasn’t visibly perturbed when three physicists burst in
        and began drawing on his blackboard. (In those days we had
        blackboards.) He sat patiently while we babbled and scribbled and
        scribbled and babbled. When we paused to draw breath, he adjusted his
        glasses, rebuttoned his cardigan and asked his first and only

        “This solution — is it nice?”

  2. Lost me on the first sentence. When I was in college,there were no physicists nor mathematicians (sp.?) only reading writing and arithmetic. We all understood each other when we talked about our interests. Da

  3. Pingback: December Links and Activities | Mental Wilderness

  4. Pingback: Rather Amusing Mathematical New Year's Resolutions - Total Fluff

  5. Thanks for a couple of useful ones. I’ll borrow the “I admire your casual contempt for logic” and after having thought about it, will also follow you down the path of eliminating the “obvious”. Good luck on your resolutionsđŸ™‚

  6. Pingback: A New Year’s Hangover From 100 Proof Policy Debates | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

  7. Is it just me or is this just a soft article used to humorize pseudo intellectuals but instead is a very cleverly made Trump campaign ad?

  8. Pingback: A Brand New Year – gulp | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  9. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Year 2, Vol. #25 | Whewell's Ghost

  10. I took an astrophysics class a few years ago. All I remember is, “Well, this can be approximated by this function which can be used to approximate this action and the result closely mirrors what we see in experiments.” And I’m just sitting in my desk wondering how, after so many approximations, any of this was supposed to mean, let alone prove, anything about the universe.

  11. Pingback: A Mathematician’s New Year’s Resolutions | dipanjan

  12. Pingback: SIMC Diary #1 – Queen of Science

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s