Mathematicians Talk (Really, they do)

We all know the joke: “What is the difference between an extroverted mathematician and an introverted one? The extroverted one looks at your shoes, rather than at his own shoes.”

Well, the interviews on Math Tango go a long ways towards dispelling this stereotype that we are conversationally challenged.  “Shecky Riemann” (the pseudonym for the self-described Martin Gardner fan who maintains this blog as well as Math Frolic) has interviewed many eloquent mathematical people (see the list here).   Some things I learned reading the interviews

  • (with Vicki Kearn) how she (an editor at Princeton University Press) goes about choosing mathematical titles and authors to work with.
  • (with Dr. Colm Mulcahy) Richard Dawkins paid Martin Gardner a visit late in his life.
  • (with Dr. Keith Devlin)  Dr. Devlin has some strong opinions about the NSA.
  • (with my co-blogger Evelyn Lamb) We both attribute our becoming mathematicians to taking an Inquiry-Based (Moore Method specifically) course!
Cardioid Microphone -- Yes, you heard that right -- Math is used to amplify itself!

Cardioid Microphone — Yes, you heard that right — Math is used to amplify itself!

Shecky’s blog really focuses on the mathematics community’s relationship to the layman as he is not himself a mathematician, but is fascinated by math. This is reflected in his great posts concerning the role of skepticism in math as well as his reviews of mathematical books for the general public.

But let’s not stop with the interviews here.  A recent post on the aperiodical features a  link to a half-hour interview on the BBC radio program The Life Scientific with Ian Stewart, who is a great popularizer of mathematics.  During the interview he attributes his doing well in math in great part to his mother’s looking out for him in school, and he answers the dreaded question “So… What was you PhD Thesis about?”.  In the course of his answering the interviewer half-jokingly interrupts “It sounds like you just made all this up” referring to the abstractness of the ideas.  That made me laugh because that’s exactly what I do — make things up!!

And just to bring everything full circle, I was reminded that Ian Stewart inherited Martin Gardner’s Scientific American Column.  So this post was really just all about Martin Gardner.  🙂   Incidentally, Martin Gardner Global Celebration of Mind is quickly approaching on October 21st each year (Gardner’s birthday).  Coincidentally, that is the day that I start my new job!  Weird.

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2 Responses to Mathematicians Talk (Really, they do)

  1. Shecky R says:

    Thanks for the plug Brie; I really started math blogging for lay readers with an inclination toward the subject, but am so glad that many serious or professional mathematicians also find my blogs worth a regular glance (and communicating with them is always a special joy for me).
    Oh, and your shoes look marvelous! 🙂

  2. Evelyn Lamb says:

    I’d like to put in a plug for a couple interviews I’ve posted on my blog:

    An interview with Constance Leidy of Wesleyan about how she managed to get tenure and a baby at the same time and how she navigates single parenthood and a math career:

    An interview with Laura DeMarco of UIC and Amie Wilkinson of U Chicago about the importance of role models and how they got to where they are:

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