Essay Psychology Invention Mathematical Field

Essay Psychology Invention Mathematical Field-59
Another important part of human thinking is the emotional aspect. In mathematics, what is intriguing, puzzling, interesting, surprising, boring, tedious, exciting is crucial; they are not incidental, they shape how we think. When I reread some of these early texts, I was stunned by how well their formalism and indirection hid the motivation, the intuition and the multiple ways to think about their subjects: they were unwelcoming to the full human mind.

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Fifty years ago when Jacques Hadamard set out to explore how mathematicians invent new ideas, he considered the creative experiences of some of the greatest thinkers of his generation, such as George Polya, Claude Le;vi-Strauss, and Albert Einstein.

It appeared that inspiration could strike anytime, particularly after an individual had worked hard on a problem for days and then turned attention to another activity.

Mathematics is not something we sense directly: it lives in our imagination and we sense it only indirectly.

The choices of how it flows in our brains are not standard and automatic, and can be very sensitive to cues and context.

I assumed that such an elaborate buildup must be leading to a fantastic denouement, which I eagerly awaited -- and waited, and waited.

It was only much later, after much of the mathematics I had studied had come alive for me that I came to appreciate how ineffective and denatured the standard ((definition theorem proof)^n remark)^m style is for communicating mathematics.

The content is almost the same (for correlation, you first project to a hyperplane before measuring the cosine of the angle), but the human psychology is very different.

Each mode of thinking has its own power, and ideally, people harness both modes of thought to work together.

I was very interested and impressed by the quality of the reasoning, but it was quite hard to stay alert and focused.

After a few experiences of reading a few pages only to discover that I really had no idea what I'd just read, I learned to drink lots of coffee, slow way down, and accept that I needed to read these books at 1/10th or 1/50th standard reading speed, pay attention to every single word and backtrack to look up all the obscure numbers of equations and theorems in order to follow the arguments.


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