Why Are Mathematicians So Nice?

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Edward Nelson reviews the book 18 Unconventional Essays on the Nature of Mathematics in the November issue of the American Mathematical Monthly. He doesn’t like the book, and he clearly had a good time writing the review. For example, when commenting on the poor typesetting and editing:

It is true that all of these passages…are understandable, but that is not the point. When my brother John was taking freshman French, the professor corrected a student’s mistake and the student said, “But a Frenchman would have understood me.” The professor replied, “Yes, and dogs understand each other by sniffing one another’s behinds.”

In the review, Nelson raises the question: “Why is it that mathematicians are such nice people?” I think it’s a great question, one that I have asked myself. As most (if not all) mathematicians will tell you, we’re a friendly bunch. Nelson’s (partial) answer is that because proofs are either correct or incorrect, we do not have to deal with subjective evaluations of our work.

What do you think?

You can (and should) read the entire review here.

Update 11/27: Edward Nelson writes in the comments

You say that I don’t like the book, but I assure that, like the curate’s egg, parts of it are excellent.

My apologies to Dr. Nelson.

2 Responses to “Why Are Mathematicians So Nice?”

  1. seveneleven Says:

    We are nice aren’t we!?!?!?! Especially the amaaaaaaazing Naz math department🙂

  2. Edward Nelson Says:

    You say that I don’t like the book, but I assure that, like the curate’s egg,
    parts of it are excellent.

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