Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Importance of Mathematics

Timothy Gowers (Fields medal winner for 1998) is a mathematician who seems to have the gift of being able to explain his subject matter even to a layman like me. His book "Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction" is a real gem, and so is the public lecture entitled "The Importance of Mathematics" that he delivered at the Clay Millenium meeting. The video of this lecture is available from A transcript of the talk is at It is one of those pieces that I read every now and then, and that brims with wit and little pearls of scientific wisdom. If you wish to convince somebody of the importance of theoretical research, then you could do worse than to borrow some of his arguments.

Here is a sample quote:

"However, if one has a bright idea, it is important to sit down and check the details thoroughly. If my own experience is anything to go by, the great majority of bright ideas are either wrong, or have been had by hundreds of people before."

If my experience is anything to go by, reading this essay will give you a few intellectually pleasing moments.

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