September 1st, 2009

Moi Jan04

Some books recently read

I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately. In no particular order:

Recountings - Conversations with MIT Mathematicians by Joel Segal. I read about it in the MIT Alum magazine - Technology Review which is a pretty interesting magazine. It has long interviews with many Math profs, some of whom were from my time. Some of the interviews are about the evolution of math and I must say I barely know what they are talking about these days having forgotten just about everything I used to know. But it was interesting to hear about these people from my past and their comments about other ones. I quote an amusing thing from Art Mattuck who was my Number Theory instructor.
I got to Princeton in September '51, Those were the day when you got a PhD in three years, not seven. The ones who took longer were the square-dancers. The Princeton Class was filled with all the Putnam Teams from Harvard and Toronto - those were the schools that regularly won the inter-collegiate Putnam math exam. They had taken mostly graduate courses while undergraduates. When they got to Princeton, they said, "Hey, I know all this," and they square-danced. But I was scared, like many of the other first-year graduate students, so we worked! When I left, they were still square-dancing. It took some of them a long time to get a PhD. They were brilliant, but somehow they couldn't work.
It is a good thing I wasn't into Contra Dancing when I was a student.

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