Sunday, December 16, 2007

Early Professional Success is only the part of the story……….

Early Professional Success is only the part of the story……….

While swimming laps, Pavel Etingof thinks about math. The crowds and noise on a city bus do little to distract Allen Knutson from the equations he scribbles on a notepad he keeps handy. Francis E. Su gave up his songwriting hobby to spend more time on his proofs.

The constant devotion of these and other mathematicians to their work has allowed them to produce seminal proofs and impressive results that have won them high praise early in their careers -- all are under 35.

Abel died of tuberculosis at age 26 after solving a 300-year-old problem and discovering what are now known as Abelian functions. Although death cut short the careers of those two men, Albert Einstein lived for 50 years after formulating his most famous equation, E=mc2, when he was 26.

Early professional success is only part of the story, even there are more failures than sccess however. Many researchers in other fields show early promise but typically take more time to make important contributions because of the nature of their work.

But starting at a young age doesn't necessarily mean one's career will end early or that later contributions will pale in importance -- the second half of the legend. In fact, Mr. Simonton found that mathematicians make their best research contributions (which he defined as the ones mentioned most often by historians and biographers in reference books) at what many might consider doddering old age: 38.8. That age is very similar to those he found in other sciences: 40.5 in biology, 38.2 in physics, and 38.0 in chemistry.

"Life takes a lot of time and effort," Mr. Fefferman says. "I think the big jump there came with taking care of babies, taking night shifts. There's nothing like sleep deprivation to make one less than brilliant."

"Doing the great mathematical work requires a hell of a lot of energy," says Mr. Etingof, of M.I.T. and Columbia, suggesting that older mathematicians may not be able to keep up that pace. "Doing mathematics at a very high level is really as exhausting as any sport." We’re talking all about mathematicians here, because at certain level all the science get mixed together and become philosophy of life. Watch this video below.

Many of these forms of public recognition are given only once to a researcher, so "there's an impression that [older mathematicians] have run out of steam," says Mr. Simonton, even if their work continues at the same level.

Doing significant work late in one's career involves seeking out problems that require more knowledge than young mathematicians can have accumulated, according to George W. Mackey, 84, an emeritus professor of mathematics at Harvard. That often means learning about several different areas of math and looking for ways to tie them together, he says. Princeton's Mr. Fefferman agrees, adding that picking up new specialties, while risky, is the best way to avoid going stale.

"In mathematics, it's not a game where the fastest wins," says Edward V. Frenkel, a 32-year-old professor at Berkeley. "But rather, it's more like who can see farther, who can see deeper. That's the one who achieves more."

Mathematics is not a closed intellectual system, in which everything has already been worked out. There is no shortage of open problems. Mathematicians publish many thousands of papers embodying new discoveries in mathematics every month.

Mathematics is not numerology, nor is it accountancy; nor is it restricted to arithmetic. So, isn't it the same like Life, very few could describe it in words.

Pseudomathematics is a form of mathematics-like activity undertaken outside academia, and occasionally by mathematicians themselves.

So if we re-phrase the above lines what Frenkel said it ought comes out like a philosophy “In Life, it’s not a game where the fastest wins, but rather it’s more who can see farther, who can see deeper. That’s the one who achieves more.”

At this point, tell me how many times we've heard this story in our childhood " The Hare & the Tortoise", isn't it sounding the same?

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