A recent comic on phdcomics.com contains the following fictitious dialogue between Tajel, a grad student, and her advisor (see the comic here):
Advisor: Tajel, it is perfectly ok for you to go on vacation.I mean, you did take work with you, right?
Tajel: Excuse me?
Advisor: You spent the whole time thinking and obsessing about your research project, I assume?
Advisor: In academia, ‘vacations’ just mean you are doing your work somewhere else.
Tajel: I don’t think we’re using the same dictionary.
More than perhaps any field, math research is portable – probably all you really need is a pencil and paper.While most of the time this is a good thing, it also means that you can never truly leave your work behind.
I know some mathematicians for whom “going on vacation” means spending mornings doing math at the desk in their hotel room, and then going out in the afternoons.But mathematicians at the opposite end of the spectrum – those who are able to leave work behind entirely – seem to be few and far between.Is it possible to be a successful mathematician without defining vacation to “just mean you are doing your work somewhere else?”
Most math grad students I know who have taken a “vacation” this summer have expressed feelings of guilt for not having gotten more math done during that time (myself included), yet all have also agreed that they deserve to take a “vacation” of some duration.Is there a contradiction here?
If you have any comments or interesting/funny stories pertaining to vacations and math, please feel free to share them in the comments section!