Thurston on Mathematics

Source: AMS, Apr 1994

It may sound almost circular to say that what mathematicians are accomplishing is to advance human understanding of mathematics. I will not try to resolve this by discussing what mathematics is, because it would take us far afield.

Mathematicians generally feel that they know what mathematics is, but find it difficult to give a good direct definition. It is interesting to try. For me, “the theory of formal patterns” has come the closest …

Freeman Dyson quotes

Source:  Goodreads, date indeterminate

“We must be careful not to discourage our twelve-year-olds by making them waste the best years of their lives preparing for examinations.”
Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions

“Science is my territory, but science fiction is the landscape of my dreams.”
Freeman Dyson, Imagined Worlds

“The public has a distorted view of science because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.”
Freeman Dyson

“It is our task, both in science and in society at large, to prove the conventional wisdom wrong and to make our unpredictable dreams come true”
Freeman Dyson

“A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible.”
Freeman Dyson

“The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove.”
Freeman Dyson

“We do not need to have an agreed set of goals before we do something ambitious!”
Freeman Dyson, From Eros to Gaia

“It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be
approached without some humor and some bewilderment.”
Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe

“The whole point of science is that most of it is uncertain. That’s why science is exciting–because we don’t know. Science is all about things we don’t understand. The public, of course, imagines science is just a set of facts. But it’s not. Science is a process of exploring, which is always partial. We explore, and we find out things that we understand. We find out things we thought we understood were wrong. That’s how it makes progress.”
Freeman Dyson


Choosing to Become Yourself

Source: MIT Admissions blog, Apr 2016

Not long ago, I met with an admitted MIT student, whom I will call Sam, because that is not his name. As we sat on a bench in Lobby 7, Sam told me that he had a problem. On Pi Day, he had been admitted to MIT, which he considered his dream school. A few weeks later, however, he was unexpectedly admitted to another program, which was also a dream, albeit a different one. Sam told me that he was having trouble choosing what to do. He wanted me to help him decide.

… often, the indeterminacy is more fundamental than that.

The problem, for Sam, was not finding the right answer: the problem, for Sam, and for many students like him, is that there is no right answer, only different ones. His two options were both very good, but very different. He would be working with different people, toward a different goal, in a different place, and at a different age. As a result, he would, at the end of either program, emerge a different person. The question — the hard question — was which of those possible persons he wanted to be.

Here’s what I told Sam: I told him that, whichever choice he makes, he’s going to end up a different person. That he can’t know, now, how he will be different, only that he will be; worse, once he is different, he won’t ever be able to really know what would or might have been, because it won’t have been that way.

Here’s another thing I told Sam: these kinds of decisions about your future are rarely correct or incorrect, just more or less well-made. In my opinion, what makes this kind of decision well-made is when it begins not from analysis but from philosophy: i.e., that you start by figuring out what your big-picture goals are, and then attempt to determine what your next steps should be. By “big picture goals” I don’t (necessarily) mean “long-term career objectives” like being a doctor or running for President, although that is sometimes the case for some people. Rather, I mean really big picture, high-level stuff, like what you want to be challenged by, and how much; like whether you are ready for a period of change or need some time to stabilize.

So, when thinking about colleges, I find it’s helpful to look to the seniors or recent alumni and ask yourself: are these the kinds of people I want future-me to be like? Do they think like I want to think? Do what I want to do? Because, while you can never know for sure how any college will shape you, you can often infer a general sense of the mold by seeing how it has shaped others who were once like you. It’s as good a heuristic as anything else in this uncertain process; in this uncertain world. 


Hofstadter: Ambigrams

Source: QEDCat website, date indeterminate

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The Best Way to have a Good Idea is to Have Lots of Ideas

Source: Brainy Quote, date indeterminate
<MIT 2016 Toy Product Design Course – Lecture 3>

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MIT: Toy Product Design

Source: MIT, date indeterminate

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Toy Product Design is an introduction to the product design process with a focus on designing for play and entertainment. It is a project-centric class. Students work in small teams of 6-7 members to design and prototype new toys. Students will be introduced to various design topics, including: brainstorming; estimation; sketching; graphic design; drawing and marker rendering; sketch modeling; concept development; design aesthetics; prototyping; and written, visual, and oral communication.

Videos about the Symbols of Physics and Astronomy

Source: Sixty Symbols, date indeterminate

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