Villani has been called the Lady Gaga of French mathematicians. ...Yes, you rarely see publicity-seeking mathematicians who go around overstating things to get attention. In contrast, there are lots of physicists who do this all the time, such as Stephen Hawking, Sean M. Carroll, Brian Greene, and Lawrence Krauss. An extreme example is Michio Kaku.
Given the chance, not many of Villani’s colleagues would choose fame over mathematics. “A mathematician would usually be very reluctant to say half-lies,” Mouhot said, or to omit or overstate something. Villani has taken flak for involving himself in politics ...
Many mathematicians are glad that Villani is willing to participate in public life, Mouhot said, so that they don’t have to.
Peter Woit used to be a physicist, but after switching to mathematics, he is now repulsed by overblown and unjustifiable claims.
Einstein's colleagues used to tell him that he was embarrassing himself with all the publicity seeking. So did Carl Sagan's.
The mathematicians who solved the biggest problems of the last 25 years, Fermat's Last Theorem and the Poincare Conjecture, are recluses who refuse to do any interviews.
I side with the mathematicians. A theme of this blog is that leading physicists have really embarrassed themselves by promoting wacky theories.
He was high on his soapbox now. “Languages were invented all around the world; technology was invented many times. Mathematics was developed once and collectively —- your culture cannot be complete if you don’t have at least a glimpse of what is mathematical reasoning.”This is a good point. You sometimes hear people say that math is a language, but that misses the point of what math is all about.
I occasionally see claims that Chinese proved Pythagorean Theorem, or other claims that math was separately invented. These are nearly all false, as far as I can see. The axiomatic method, as in Euclid's Elements, was only developed by the ancient Greeks, as far as I know.
Yes, there are examples of some independent discovery, such as Newton and Leibniz finding calculus. But even in that case, they are more access to each others ideas that they wanted to admit.