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#121 g.johnson

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 08:37 PM

Mathematicians are an odd bunch too.

Exhibit Z.
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#122 SLBunge

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 05:19 PM

Does anyone else get completely irritated by Patricia Marx's articles. They all seem to devolve into paragraph after paragraph of lists with parenthetical details. This month it's about food and I still can't read her writing.
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#123 mongo_jones

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 06:48 PM



Mathematicians are an odd bunch too; .

All creators are odd. How many writers are regular, well-adjusted people
who take good care of their children, mow their lawns regularly, and
dress well? How many artists?


Strictly speaking, I don't doubt that the majority of professional writers and academic philosophers conform to that picture. We tend to notice the oddballs. Nor is there necessarily a correlation between outstanding achievement and personal eccentricity.


it always bears repeating that wallace stevens was a vice-president at an insurance company.

and most people of any kind are not well-adjusted people who take good care of their children and dress well; though here in the midwest they do tend to mow their lawns regularly.

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#124 FoodDabbler

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 11:57 PM

most people of any kind are not well-adjusted people who take good care of their children and dress well;

Except on MF.

My main point above was that mathematicians are no odder than any other group
of creative people. Are creative people odder than the norm? Although you can find
exceptions, I'd suggest that they are. It's abnormal, by definition, to spend long,
concentrated periods of time on a single activity, often (especially early in ones career)
with no guarantee of success or reward. This abnormality leads, in my experience, to
oddity.

#125 Orik

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 06:25 AM

That's an interesting theory but it does not coincide with facts.

Brains that are wired for exceptional mathematical skill are also often wired for Asperger's, left-handedness, and a host of other statistically unusual traits.
I never said that

#126 FoodDabbler

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 08:42 PM

You're saying that mathematically talented people are likely to be odder than other
creative people (artists, painters, writers)?

I'll bow to your superior knowledge of wiring, but I haven't noticed a difference.
Of course, being mathematically inclined myself, I might not notice it.

#127 g.johnson

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 09:02 PM

Mathematics is one of the relatively few creative activities that one can practice entirely alone. All science (for the past hundred years at least) and performing arts require collaboration. Even poets have to work to find publishers. But once the senior wrangler has his Trinity fellowship, he's there for life, occasionally sending off a manuscript and doing his best to ignore his teaching responsibilities.
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#128 Adrian

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 09:50 PM

Studies suggest that there's a higher prevalence of Aspergers and austism-like behvaior among those who are highly mathematically inclined. For example. (one of the few not behind a wall). Of course, simply because they represent a higher proportion of mathematicians display these characteristics does not mean that this is readily visible - ie. they still could be a small portion of all mathematicians. Regardless, I don't think that anyone has shown a similar correlation between autism and other creative activities. I wouldn't be surprised to see such a connection among musicians, although this is idle and largely uniformed speculation like, frankly, the rest of this post.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#129 Abbylovi

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:02 PM

Does anyone else get completely irritated by Patricia Marx's articles. They all seem to devolve into paragraph after paragraph of lists with parenthetical details. This month it's about food and I still can't read her writing.

I can't stand her style of writing, I now skip over her articles.
It is better to have beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.

#130 Wilfrid

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 09:14 PM

So Jonah Lehrer standing in for Gladwell, reporting some fascinating research - in this case on how people work effectively together ("Groupthink" - abstract only).

Among other things, there's this guy who studies whether Broadway shows are more or less likely to be successful if the creative team have worked together before. He scrutinizes old Playbills and gives the shows a "Q" rating signifying the "density" of these connections.

After digesting the extraordinary discovery that "people who work on Broadway (are) part of a social network with lots of interconnections" (a FMJD if ever there was one), we are told that shows with a low Q tend to be unsuccessful (wow again), and more interestingly that they also tend to be unsuccessful if the Q rating is too high.

It's best to be in the middle. Example, "West Side Story" - a massive success because it featured not only the work of old hands Bernstein, Laurents and Robbins, but also a newcomer, Stephen Sondheim, who we now know helped the show by reducing its Q rating - which, ex hypothesi, any similarly unfamiliar lyricist might have done - and not, after all, because he was the most exciting new talent in musical theater since, perhaps, Cole Porter.

Enlightenment. Love it.

#131 Orik

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 09:36 PM

You're saying that mathematically talented people are likely to be odder than other
creative people (artists, painters, writers)?

I'll bow to your superior knowledge of wiring, but I haven't noticed a difference.
Of course, being mathematically inclined myself, I might not notice it.


The questionnaire was tried on Cambridge University students, and a group of sixteen winners of the British Mathematical Olympiad,[8] to determine whether there was a link between a talent for mathematical and scientific disciplines and traits associated with the autism spectrum. Mathematics, physical sciences and engineering students were found to score significantly higher, e.g. 21.8 on average for mathematicians and 21.4 for computer scientists. The average score for the British Mathematical Olympiad winners was 24. Of the students who scored 32 or more on the test, eleven agreed to be interviewed and seven of these were reported to meet the DSM-IV criteria for Asperger syndrome, although no formal diagnosis was made as they were not suffering any distress. The test was also taken by a group of subjects who had been diagnosed with autism or Asperger syndrome by a professional, the average score being 35 and 38 for males and females respectively.


I never said that

#132 SLBunge

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:30 PM

I really enjoyed reading Katherine Boo's article "Opening Night" in early 2009 (abstract only online). I am happy to see that she continued her reporting on the people who live in the Gautam Nagar slum in Mumbai and has written a book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity that is getting very good reviews.

Perhaps I'll get the Kindle edition.
Suffocating under a pile of cheese curds.

#133 Wilfrid

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 04:09 PM

I have been reading issues out of order, so I'm not sure which this was in, but the piece on the Clementi case was eye-opening. This was the student who committed suicide after apparently being spied on and outed by his room-mate; at least, that's the impression everyone got from the media. Not so simple.

#134 StephanieL

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 04:57 PM

I have been reading issues out of order, so I'm not sure which this was in, but the piece on the Clementi case was eye-opening. This was the student who committed suicide after apparently being spied on and outed by his room-mate; at least, that's the impression everyone got from the media. Not so simple.

Last week's issue. Very interesting and remarkably detailed.

I found the article on face transplantation in the latest issue riveting.
"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." --John Steinbeck


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#135 Wilfrid

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 06:02 PM

I have been reading issues out of order, so I'm not sure which this was in, but the piece on the Clementi case was eye-opening. This was the student who committed suicide after apparently being spied on and outed by his room-mate; at least, that's the impression everyone got from the media. Not so simple.


I guess the jury found it pretty simple. Guilty of a hate crime.