Indiscrete Thoughts by Gian-Carlo Rota (auth.), Fabrizio Palombi (eds.)

By Gian-Carlo Rota (auth.), Fabrizio Palombi (eds.)

Indiscrete Thoughts provides a glimpse right into a global that has seldom been defined, that of technology and expertise as noticeable in the course of the eyes of a mathematician. The period lined by means of this e-book, 1950 to 1990, was once definitely one of many golden a while of technology in addition to of the yank university.

Cherished myths are debunked alongside the way in which as Gian-Carlo Rota takes excitement in portraying, warts and all, a number of the nice medical personalities of the interval —Stanislav Ulam (who, including Edward Teller, signed the patent program for the hydrogen bomb), Solomon Lefschetz (Chairman within the Nineteen Fifties of the Princeton arithmetic department), William Feller (one of the founders of recent chance theory), Jack Schwartz (one of the founders of laptop science), and plenty of others.

Rota isn't really fearful of controversy. a few readers will even think about those essays indiscreet. After the e-book of the essay "The Pernicious impact of arithmetic upon Philosophy" (reprinted six instances in 5 languages) the writer was once blacklisted in analytical philosophy circles. Indiscrete techniques may still develop into an fast vintage and the topic of discussion for many years to come.

"Read Indiscrete Thoughts for its account of ways we have been and what we have now turn into; for its brilliant suggestion and its exuberant rhetoric."--The Mathematical Intelligencer

"Learned, thought-provoking, politically wrong, delighting in paradox, and certain to offend—but far and wide readable and entertaining."--The American Mathematical Monthly

"It is set mathematicians, the best way they suspect, and the area within which they stay. it really is 260 pages of Rota calling it like he sees it... Readers are guaranteed to locate his observations fun if now not insightful. Gian-Carlo Rota has written this kind of e-book that few mathematicians may write. what is going to allure instantly to someone with an curiosity in learn arithmetic are the tales he tells concerning the perform of recent mathematics."--MAA Reviews

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His lectures were loud and entertaining. He wrote very large on the blackboard, in a beautiful Italianate handwriting with lots o f whirls. Sometimes only one huge formula appeared on the blackboard during the entire period; the rest was handwaving. His proofs - - insofar as one can speak of proofs - - were often deficient. Nonetheless, they were convincing, and the results became unforgettably clear after he had explained them. The main idea was never wrong. He took umbrage when someone interrupted his lecturing by pointing out some glaring mistake.

A distinguished mathematician, who is still alive, pointedly remarked to me in 1955 that any existence theorem for partial differential equations which had been proved without using a topological fixed point theorem should be dismissed as applied mathematics. Another equally distinguished mathematician once whispered to me in 1956, "Did you know that your algebra teacher Oystein Ore has published papers in graph theory? " Sometime in the early eighties the tables turned, and a stampede away from abstraction started, which is still going on.

After one lecture, I asked a rather senior-looking mathematician who had been 20 o:o I. Persons and Places o:. religiously attending Lefschetz's lectures whether he understood what the lecturer was talking about. I received a vague and evasive answer. After that moment, I knew. W h e n he was forced to relinquish the chairmanship of the Princeton mathematics department for reasons of age, he decided to promote Mexican mathematics. His love/hate of the Mexicans got him into trouble. Once, in a Mexican train station, he spotted a charro dressed in full regalia, complete with a pair o f pistols and rows of cartridges across his chest.

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