About talking to mathematicians

This week I read a couple of blog posts relating to mathematicians. The first is How to talk to a mathematician from Math with Bad Drawings (by Ben Orlin), and the second is titled Mathematicians are chronically lost and confused (and that’s how it’s supposed to be) by Jeremy Kun of Mathematicians ∩ Programmers.

They were both interesting, especially as I’m still somewhat of an outsider in the mathematical world. I sent the one from Math with Bad Drawings to the family, and Bruce picked out an especially good quote:

Math isn’t just mentally taxing and packed with jargon. It’s also dizzyingly abstract. At least rocket scientists and neurosurgeons can point to concrete objects that they work with—spaceships! Brains! By contrast, mathematicians work with pure ideas.

There were a couple of bits from the article by Jeremy Kun that made me feel better about my own research, the first describes how I usually feel:

If you’re going to get anywhere in learning mathematics, you need to learn to be comfortable not understanding something.

The second a paraphrased quote from someone else (some I’m second, or third level quoting here):

If I spend an entire day and all I do is understand this one feature of this one object that I didn’t understand before, then that’s a great day.

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