Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Not much substance; looking ahead and behind.

Today I cannot think of anything pleasant or insightful to write about my current endeavors in mathematics. A take-home final in Probability takes most of my attention (and this blog post takes the rest), but during the occasional undisturbed moment I think about how I should spend the forthcoming summer days.

I must be more serious and disciplined, for one thing. Having an advisor, I have much more to do than ever, and if I don't set a structure to the weekdays then I fear that I will accomplish nothing. That being said, I need some time in front a desk and without disturbance or distraction .. at least for part of the day.

I thought in the same sporadic manner until I remembered something, and subsequently I decided that for the summer I should follow something like G.H. Hardy's example (see below). I will insist on working diligently for 4 hours each day in the office (perhaps the hottest part of the day, 11 am - 3 pm, if only for convenience) and the rest of the day I will allow for variation and whim.

Perhaps I will do nothing more than those proposed hours, perhaps not. At the very least I will attempt to keep a solid, intense focus during those four hours. I think this will make me more efficient than working idly all day; doing otherwise slows down the pace of my contemplations considerably.

Here is an excerpt from a short bio on G.H. Hardy. I wonder how much of it is true; at the very least I don't think I will take up his interest in cricket, unless it helps me to understand maximal functions.

There was only one passion in Hardy's life other than mathematics and that was cricket. In fact for most of his life his day, at least during the cricket season, would consist of breakfast during which he read The Times studying the cricket scores with great interest. After breakfast he would work on his own mathematical researches from 9 o'clock till 1 o'clock. Then, after a light lunch, he would walk down to the university cricket ground to watch a game. In the late afternoon he would walk slowly back to his rooms in College. There he took dinner, which he followed with a glass of wine. When cricket was not in season, it was the Australian cricket scores he would read in The Times and he would play real tennis in the afternoons.

Hardy was known for his eccentricities. He could not endure having his photograph taken and only five snapshots are known to exist. He also hated mirrors and his first action on entering any hotel room was to cover any mirror with a towel. He always played an amusing game of trying to fool God (which is also rather strange since he claimed all his life not be believe in God). For example, during a trip to Denmark he sent back a postcard claiming that he had proved the Riemann hypothesis. He reasoned that God would not allow the boat to sink on the return journey and give him the same fame that Fermat had achieved with his "last theorem".

Another example of his trying to fool God was when he went to cricket matches he would take what he called his "anti-God battery". This consisted of thick sweaters, an umbrella, mathematical papers to referee, student examination scripts etc. His theory was that God would think that he expected rain to come so that he could then get on with his work. Since Hardy thought that God would then have the sun shine all day to spite him, he would be able to enjoy the cricket in perfect sunshine.

No comments: