Wednesday, July 02, 2003

For the Love of Math

A doctor, lawyer and mathematician were discussing whether it was better to have a wife or a girlfriend. The doctor said it was better to have a wife because it is medically safer to have a single partner. The lawyer said it was better to have a girlfriend to avoid the legal hassles of marriage. The mathematician said it was better to have both.

"Both?" said the doctor and the lawyer. "Yes," said the mathematician, "That way the wife thinks I'm with the girlfriend, the girlfriend thinks I'm with the wife and I can do some math."

I was reminded of that joke by the recent New York Times article Pure Math, Pure Joy and the accompanying slideshow. Those pictures look all too familiar.

The greatest lovers of math though are not the famous mathematicians at places like Berkeley and Harvard. Rather the mathematicians who take low-paying jobs with high teaching loads at less-strong colleges or move from visiting position to visiting position just to have some occasional time to do math. They have a dedication (or perhaps an addiction) I can never fully appreciate.

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