FOM: G.-C. Rota's Indiscretions
mellon at pobox.com
Wed Nov 18 13:35:42 EST 1998
You, Joe Shipman, were spotted writing this on Tue, Nov 17, 1998 at 11:29:58AM -0500:
> Steve quotes some of Rota's ten "rules" for the survival in Mathematics
> 1. Never wash your dirty linen in public.
> 3. Never compare fields.
> 8. View the mathematical community as a United Front.
> I'd like to see the other seven!
Here they are:
1. Never wash your dirty linen in public.
2. Never go above the head of your department.
3. Never compare fields.
4. Remember that the grocery bill is a piece of mathematics too.
5. Do not look down on good teachers.
6. Write expository papers.
7. Do not show your questioners to the door.
8. View the mathematical community as a United Front.
9. Attack flakiness.
10. Learn when to withdraw.
In 7., by "questioners" are meant engineers, physicists, etc. who come
to a mathematician asking for help. In 9., "flakiness" is outside-world
flakiness; attacking it is proposed by Rota as a "chance to make a
lasting controbution to the well-being of Science". He explicitly says
"You and I know that mathematics is not and will never be flaky, by
Here's a quote from a paragraph explaining 10. : "When the going gets rough,
we have recourse to a way of salvation that is not available to ordinary
mortals: we have that Mighty Fortress that is our Mathematics. This
is what makes us mathematicians into very special people. The danger is
envy from the rest of the world."
mellon at pobox.com http://pobox.com/~mellon/
"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly" - G.K.Chesterton
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