This piece covers it up all…..the need to think, the need to keep on researching when we failed. Thank you for this beautiful post.
Or, the Many Uses of Uselessness
One of the joys of being married to a pure mathematician—other than finding coffee-stained notebooks full of integrals lying around the flat—is hearing her try to explain her job to other people.
“Are there…uh… a lot of computers involved?”
“Do you write equations? I mean, you know, long ones?”
“Do you work with really big numbers?”
No, sometimes, and no. She rarely uses a computer, traffics more with inequalities than equations, and—like most researchers in her subfield—considers any number larger than 5 to be monstrously big.
Still, she doesn’t begrudge the questions. Pure math research is a weird job, and hard to explain. (The irreplaceable Jordy Greenblatt wrote a great piece poking fun at the many misconceptions.)
So, here’s this teacher’s feeble attempt to explain the profession, on behalf of all the pure mathematicians out there.
Q: So, what is pure math?
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