How Is A Mathematician’s Work Done?

a very famous mathematician once

actually characterized mathematics is

something that you lay down close your

eyes and work like hell and if you can

say that and mean it then you're a

mathematician and this of course means

you're doing it by yourself actually

often a lot of mathematics acceptable

historically it was done large about

people on their own and very often it is

but these days it's increasingly

becoming a team game it is yeah there's

a lovely website just start in a couple

last couple of years called polymath

where drama in the fields met him gallon

Tim Gower's in Cambridge so he throws

out this problem on a block and he just

says to everybody in the math community

or any other community if you can

contribute to trying to solve this

problem add a comment and they've solved

at least one quite significant problem

by just people throwing in ideas and

bouncing off each other and that's

almost the opposite extreme of this idea

of the lone genius but I still think you

know your book about Andrew Wiles

proving Fermat's Last Theorem that was

such a prize that he dint talk to

anybody else because he wanted to you

were the one to prove it and yeah yeah

so Andrew was is an extreme case of

somebody who so whose apartment three

hundred fifty years old and as well much

less yeah that's right so he three

hundred fifty years old said the more

that people fail to prove it the more it

became desirable and and when Andrew

Wiles we basic in Princeton by that time

and once he realized the technique that

might get him there he closed shop he

largely worked at home didn't go to the

department very much but he was scared

that if he whispered his process to

someone else they'd steal it I think I

think was doing well partly it was fear

of being beaten to the prize to the fear

of being thought to be crazy because if

no one else is own for 350 years why

does he think he's so smart and also

just the intense focus it's required to

take on such a major problem and for

seven years he did nothing but work on

this problem but on the other it roughly

the same time you have something like

Paul air dish who is an extraordinary as

a wonderful book or the man who loved

only numbers very very much was a fella

who would wring your

I'm open your mind I hear from my desert

said Annie I collaborated with 500

mathematicians during his career

published over 1500 papers and as the

Willy Loman of math and he would just

show up as the salesman go ding dong and

he then spent two weeks with you and you

have to give me yeah he was here once

with the wrong gram on the East Coast

and they've got up early and he only has

two suitcases that was his entire world

possessions and he was with Ron Graham

and he said I was stuck you know we we

don't know what to do Ron Graham said

it's ok I know a guy on the west coast

who can solve this problem and just said

well let's ring him that and Ron Graham

said look it's 8 a.m. in the morning and

in California will be 5 a.m. and they

just said well that's great that means

he'll be in for him it was purely

mathematics that it would that's what

the whole world revolved right and and

and which is the more common way to do

it by yourself or on the phone or online

or ringing the doorbell or I think more

and more it's uncommon to be entirely

alone yeah uncommon uncommon but I think

it's a combination I mean I find what I

do best is to to work on my own then go

and share ideas bounce and you get much

further than you come back you need to

spend and I think there's something

you're not around finches right we go to

conferences we go visit each other we I

find maths quite difficult to do online

because by email because actually I

think there's a lot of unspoken as sort

of trying to verbalize an idea in your

head you haven't got quite got the

language there's a lot of with the my

collaborators and I can't do that by

email and somehow I collaborate again I

think I see what you're seeing and then

we can start to formulate but I we do

quite a lot of that with Skype or or

Skype plus all right yes

absolutely and it's really a matter of

how good the broadband is