Why do I "math"?
Jamie Weigandt

I've come to recognize lately how much mathematics bear similarity to the music industry. Much in the same way that young musicians are inspired by previously established artists, I have my own mathematical "influences". My advisor, Edray Goins, is certain my greatest among these, but the two of us are both heavily influenced by Barry Mazur.

Anyone who's met Mazur quickly realizes that his enthusiasm for doing mathematics is downright infectious. (c.f. this documentary about the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.) In his popular book Imagining Numbers: Particularly the Square Root of Minus Fifteen, Mazur compares mathematicians to bees:

"Our gathering of the honey of the imaginative world is not immediate; it takes work. But though it requires traveling some distance, merging with something not of our species, communicating by dance to our fellow creatures what we've done and where we've been, and, finally, bringing back that single glistening drop, it is an activity we do without contortion. It is who we bees are."

While I immediately identified with this passage when I read it in January, I've found it even more relevant in the past two months. In that time I've traveled from West Lafayette, to Switzerland, to Boston, back to West Lafayette, off to Berkeley and finally back to West Lafayette to wrap up what my friends have dubbed MathTour 2010. Surely this constitutes traveling some distance.

As for merging with something not of our species, I've recently gotten involved with WIlliam Stein's project, Sage, which has been compared by some to the ominous Borg from Star Trek. Reports of my assimilation are... likely accurate.

I'm presently communicating to you, my fellow creatures, what I have done and where I have been. Should be be stickler for details, I'm now officially using dance. :)

Through all of this, I've spoken with several experts about my research, attended over 40 lectures, and I've returned to the hive with more than just a drop of honey. I have acquired a clearer picture of the mathematical landscape in which I work. I'm now ready to explore in greater breadth and depth than I previously believe possible. Surely this will be quite a challenge. Just as there is hard work behind me, there is hard work ahead of me, but as Mazur says, it is activity that I will do without contortion. It is indeed who I am.

And that, is why I "math".

Back to 2010 Essay Contest

Related Pages

MATHS Course Lists, How_to_type_Math_Equations, Failing With Dignity, Math Jokes

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Ph.D. 2007, working on developing cool imaging technologies for digital cameras, camera phones, and video surveillance cameras.

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