Anatoly Vorobey (avva) wrote,
Anatoly Vorobey
avva

о математиках (англ.)

Вот любопытная запись человека, который разочаровался в математической культуре, не закончил свой докторат по математике и ушел в программисты.

Why I Left Math (англ.)

Несколько основных абзацев (впрочем, можно и всю запись прочитать, она недлинна):
Math departments regularly have visiting mathematicians come and give talks. [...] As a grad student I attended. I quickly noticed that most of the professors in the math department went out of politeness. However they knew they wouldn't understand the talk, so they brought other things to do. If I looked around about 15 minutes into the talk, I'd see people reading books, grading homework, and otherwise not paying attention. At the end of the talk the speaker would ask whether there were questions. Inevitably the mathematician who invited the speaker would have some. Occasionally a second mathematician would have some. But the rest of the room wouldn't.

This was supposed to be the high point of the life of a mathematician? That's when I decided that, no matter how much I loved mathematics, I wanted a different career. [...]

Why do mathematicians put up with this? I'll need to describe a mathematical culture a little first. These days mathematicians are divided into little cliques of perhaps a dozen people who work on the same stuff. All of the papers you write get peer reviewed by your clique. You then make a point of reading what your clique produces and writing papers that cite theirs. Nobody outside the clique is likely to pay much attention to, or be able to easily understand, work done within the clique. Over time people do move between cliques, but this social structure is ubiquitous. Anyone who can't accept it doesn't remain in mathematics.

In fact if, like me, you are someone who likes to dabble in lots of things, you will be warned (as I was by multiple professors) about the dangers of not focusing on one small group. You will be told plenty of cautionary tales of mathematicians who published a number of good papers, but who didn't publish enough in any specific area to get good mathematicians to stand behind them. And therefore the unlucky generalist was unable to get tenure despite doing good work.
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