Monday, June 12, 2017

Math Has No God Particle

The 538 blog writes:
“Mathematicians are extremely reluctant to publicize what they do,” Adams said. “The immediate reaction from 90 percent of mathematicians is, ‘It’s too hard, there’s no point in trying to write about this in the popular press.’” ...

This time around, however, there’s been no press release, no pretty picture, no city-size braggadocio, no New York Times story. Adams and his team haven’t trumpeted this latest accomplishment at all. When I reached him at his home, he summarized the milestone plainly, but proudly, in the jargon of his field: “We can now compute the Hermitian form on any irreducible representation.”

Raphaël Rouquier, a mathematician and Lie theorist at UCLA, echoed the ticklish relationship between mathematicians and the press. “There is a general feeling in the pure math community that popularizing mathematics is betraying mathematics,” Rouquier said.
There is some truth to this.

I have posted lately on the special relativity work of Poincare and Einstein, and the public reaction. My suspicion is that part of the difference can be accounted for by Poincare having the personality of a mathematician, and Einstein a physicist.

Poincare was concerned with applied science as much as Einstein, and also with theoretical physics, so it is not obvious that there should be a difference. But Poincare had the intellectual outlook of a mathematician, and Einstein did not.

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