Saturday, July 23, 2011

Math Madness

Richard Schwartz, my neighbor in Rhode Island, is a Math Professor who also writes children's books. He wrote "You can count on Monsters", an Amazon best-selling book about tilings, numbers up to one hundred, primes, and monsters.

On his web page, there are also illustrated children's stories that seem to draw a mixture of raving and furious reviews. His very particular sense of humor is called "madness" by some, yet I instantly recognize it. I think that it's a distinctive mathematician's humor that has to do with playing with the absurd.

Sometimes I make a comment that is patently absurd. If I am in the company of computer scientists and mathematicians, all instantly recognize it as humor and naturally reply in like manner, for a moment of delightful freedom from common sense. If I am in other company, people look at me uncertainly and start avoiding me, I'm not sure why.

There are no taboos in pure science. Everything could and should be questioned, and belief can always be suspended just as well as disbelief. When I now read Alice in Wonderland, I can recognize the unmistakable marks of a mathematician's mind.

1 comment:

  1. Could you give an example of the type of patently absurd comments that you make?


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