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Advice to a Young Mathematician [pdf] (princeton.edu)
62 points by tokenadult 1876 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

If you like this stuff, recommend you read Hamming's "You and Your Research" (http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html), which is thought-provoking and approachable.

Ha, Sir Michael Atiyah's advice to a young mathematician includes a great anecdote: ""J. E. Littlewood is reported to have set each of his research students to work on a disguised version of the Riemann hypothesis, letting them know what he had done only after six months. He argued that the student would not have the confidence to attack such a famous problem directly, but might make progress if not told of the fame of his opponent! The policy may not have led to a proof of the Riemann hypothesis, but it certainly led to resilient and battle-hardened students"".

What a great story — sounds like it just leapt off the pages of the McSweeny's list "Zen Parable or Just Someone Being Cruel?".

Sounds a little like the Dantzig story: http://www.snopes.com/college/homework/unsolvable.asp

love it... probably not intended but i found it fascinating how the description of finding new ideas and approaches in mathematics (or any field for that matter) is similar to that in startups. this part in particular resonated

"If you keep asking yourself such questions when reading a paper or listening to a lecture, then sooner or later a glimmer of an answer will emerge—some possible route to investigate. When this happens to me I always take time out to pursue the idea to see where it leads or whether it will stand up to scrutiny. Nine times out of ten it turns out to be a blind alley, but occasionally one strikes gold. The difficulty is in knowing when an idea that is initially promising is in fact going nowhere. At this stage one has to cut one’s losses and return to the main road. Often the decision is not clear-cut, and in fact I frequently return to a previously discarded idea and give it another try"

I would like to archive this so that I can go back to it later, however I can't seem to find the original work and scribd is holding it hostage asking for a signup as ransom. Can anybody point me out to the source?

I would like to archive this so that I can go back to it later, however I can't seem to find the original work and scribd is holding it hostage asking for a signup as ransom.

The original source (Princeton University Press) URL


appears if you mouse over the submission title here. I never read on scribd, which always annoys me with usability issues like that. But, alas, any user of HN who submits a .PDF link will find it automatically styled to also link to scribd.

Is there a userscript or anything for getting rid of the scribd links? I tried to adblock but the markup is too simple to let it identify them.

Why? They're not that large, just click the original title instead. I would understand if you asked for a Google Cache replacement, though (I use a bookmarklet for that).

The link was direct when I tried it. However, to answer your question, it is a chapter from The Princeton Companion to Mathematics. An amazing work covering much of mathematics.


In the risk of being downvoted to death, I think reposting these articles is necessary:

'Don't become a scientist!': http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html 'Women in science': http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/women-in-science

The career for pure mathematicians(which is more like the humanities, and specific knowledge quite untransferrable) in academia, being better or worse, is open for discussion.

Quite questionable examples. Most girls I know become teachers/nurses/psychology/doctors and a few engineers. Zero in CS usually. It's only about the money in the US because your diploma costs too much money and you need to pay down your debt. His webpage only applies to the US, I'm sure other countries like Russia have babes in Computer Science (See Golden Eye).

There is so much good advice in here directly applicable to entrepreneurship!

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