constructionworker

Is this at all possible?

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Hello,

 

I'm almost 30 and I've decided to quit my job in order to pursue mathematics full time. Basically, I want to discover something that will make me famous and put my name in math books around the world. That's it in a nutshell.

 

Now, I'd like you to give me some much needed insight into how realistic my new found dream is. Please understand that I've had some talent in math as a kid, which was a decade ago, and that in order to realize my dream I'll be living and breathing mathematics, all day, everyday, for the rest of my life.

 

Thanks in advance for any insight you're willing to share with me.

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I'm almost 30 and I've decided to quit my job in order to pursue mathematics full time.

Unless you have money, I would advice against this. Being good at maths and poor is not fun, I know.

 

Basically, I want to discover something that will make me famous and put my name in math books around the world. That's it in a nutshell.

Mathematicians are seldom famous, but one could hope to become recognised in ones field. To do this you need to publish papers, and maybe latter a monograph or graduate textbook.

 

 

Now, I'd like you to give me some much needed insight into how realistic my new found dream is. Please understand that I've had some talent in math as a kid, which was a decade ago, and that in order to realize my dream I'll be living and breathing mathematics, all day, everyday, for the rest of my life.

Getting a paper published is a realistic goal, if you put in the effort. You will need to focus on something interesting and tractable. I have no idea what your interests are.

 

My advice would be to get a PhD, it will give you the background to be able to publish papers and will give you some creditability. You will learn the expectations placed on you and your work while being in an environment that will expose you to many ideas.

 

Good luck whatever happens.

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Thank you for the reply, ajb.

 

A PhD would be nice, of course, but first I'd like to study on my own and see where that takes me.

 

I recently bought the following books:

 

"The Math Book" (cover says: from pythagoras to the 57th dimension, 250 milestones in the history of mathematics) by Cliford A. Pickover

"Mathematics 1001" (cover says: absolutely everything that matters in mathematics in 1001 bite-sized explanations) by Dr. Richard Elwes

 

These were found from a while back:

 

"Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers" by Jan Gullberg

"Advanced Calculus" (second edition) by Robert C. Wrede and Murray Spiegel

 

After the Holidays (Happy Holidays, by the way) I plan to study those books, day and night, until I learn it all. Until I get that sense of mastery. Until every thought and every dream is about math in some way. This may take a very long time, but I'm willing to put in the effort.

 

Good luck to you, too.

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It is certainly possible. As ajb said, in all likelihood you will need to complete work akin to PhD level in order to contribute papers or monographs to the current body of knowledge.

 

On the other hand, you mention wanting to work with math every day; if that is the case, there are careers that use math all the time without needing a PhD. I am thinking, for example, of jobs in statistics like an actuarial or the currently hot field of 'big' data analysis. In fact, some of the actuarial jobs, all you have to do is pass the formal exams -- some won't care if you have a degree or not because passing the exams indicates your level of knowledge and skill.

 

Other ideas are careers where writing computer simulations would require doing a great deal of math. Most of these are probably going to require at least a B.S. in the field, however: e.g. most likely you aren't going to get a job writing computer simulations of a refinery without a degree in chemical engineering or a job writing software that simulates a computer chip without a degree in electrical or computer engineering.

 

Lastly, I would like to say that most any job can benefit from someone willing to try to apply more mathematical or analytical skills to the position. Most jobs will be happy for someone to volunteer to learn more about the business and take on trying to analyze more complex problems. This is something to talk with your current supervisor about.

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I sympathize with this motivation, as it has some similarities with my own aspirations (to combine a passion for mathematics with an ambition to make something worldwide important from it). However I came to a quite different definition of the purpose (or rather I have 2 main purposes). Indeed I don't think your expression of the purpose is realistic, while I see mine are much more realistic. In fact my plans are already set, I know well enough where I am heading to, the solution is clear enough for the perspective of success to be already, reliably in sight. However it needs more work to be complete and I lack the time and energy to make the necessary steps, so I need help. So I wonder if you might like to join my efforts.

Let me explain.
First start with a critical analysis of your purpose. You have 2 points :

"I'll be living and breathing mathematics, all day, everyday, for the rest of my life."


Fine. Like many others already did, you want to (metaphorically) quit this planet in order to rebuild your life in the pure etheric universe of mathematical abstractions, very far from the world of material needs, financial worries and work requirements, bureaucracy, hurricanes, global warming, environmental destructions, political debates, news about wars and other conflicts and mass starvations.

But... you also wrote that you wish...
"to discover something that will make me famous and put my name in math books around the world"

Uh... to be famous around which world, please ??? Would you be trying to refer here to the currently present mankind on the Earth planet ? Are you sure ? But then, how do you want to reconcile this with the previous point ?
This question may look like a joke, but I think it is quite serious and I'd have many remarks in support to this kind of concern.

If you'd like to ignore the problem and be optimistic for your purpose, let's say okay, consider the possibility for a minute.
It's possible. Others did it and succeeded. Still rather recently, by some very huge theoretical work they succeeded to resolve some old very difficult problems:
- The 4 colors theorem
- The classification of finite simple groups
- The Fermat's last theorem
- The Poincaré conjecture (note that Grigori Perelman who found the proof also fully dedicated his life to mathematics as you consider doing)

Meanwhile, some great advances have been made in theoretical physics:
- The Higgs boson
- Theoretical possibilities of supersymmetry and superstrings but no experimental confirmation yet
- Non-commutative geometry
- Loop quantum gravity

Very fine. The only problem is... WTF ??
Indeed...
I once read about an interesting theorem in complexity theory, that may be summed up as "Difficult theorems are useless".
I'm not naive to just assume it as true for concerns far away from the formal expression of that theorem (which I did not look at), but I find it interesting to raise it as a question in different situations : can anything be considered as an exception to this "rule", whatever the kind of usefulness you are looking for ?

Now apply this question to the above cases : they were very hard and wonderful discoveries indeed, but what are they for ? Did they help to make the world safer, happier, more wealthy or better preserved from environmental destructions ? Seems not.
Were the names of their authors put "in math books around the world" ? Not even. Because the contents of these discoveries are quite far from the ordinary studying curriculum.
If these mathematicians had not made these discoveries, what would have happened instead ? These discoveries would probably have been done by other mathematicians just a few years later.

There is a tradition of caring about authors in philosophy, not in mathematics.
In mathematics, if theorems are named after authors, it is much more just for the sake of naming theorems, than for paying attention to their authors as individuals.

I remember when I did my PhD, another math PhD in the laboratory said to me "I am a shit". I asked why, and she explained : "I produce an article, and it enters a library". That is, just one more article among many thousands of others.
Many important findings had co-discoverers : different mathematicians who independently made the same discovery at the same time. Or, some mathematicians make a discovery and then when trying to publish it they discover that someone else already independently made and published that discovery a little before them.
In such a case, none of them is individually useful to mankind : delete the contributions of one of them, and his discoveries will still appear on Earth from other authors at either the same time or a little later.

And even if there are 1 or 2 decades of delay, so what ? How much is a few years, or decades, compared to the history of humans on Earth ? In these conditions, why should it matter who discovers what and at what time ?

It is nice to try to bring a contribution to the world, but what contribution is it ? If it is only a contribution for the interest of other mathematicians who are themselves wondering what they can contribute to the world, then... you are only competing with them in the race to make the same discoveries, and the only thing you bring is that you make it harder for them to still find something else to discover (obliging them to learn more and go further before they can find anything new). How good is that, finally ?

But... if the aspiration for a mathematician is to be original, then what is original in trying to race for the same purpose as many others (the purpose of making oneself a name), and making their work harder ?

This is why I found little sense in "research in mathematics" as it is usually conceived.
I'm also aware that, while my intelligence is locally rather exceptional (in the experience of my math teachers in high school and first years of higher education), it still cannot suffice to stand a worldwide competition. Not only I cannot http://settheory.net'>Cleaning up the existing knowledge in maths and physics as for the basic concepts that millions of students currently have to learn (and waste time on because it was not cleaned up yet), so as to make it easier (instead of harder) for other people to learn it and possibly reach the point of being productive for further discoveries.
- Analyzing the troubles and developing models of solutions for economic and political issues. In particular, I made a mathematical theory of a decentralized online money system. I already (roughly) resolved the P2P credit aspect, but another aspect of the problem (stability of value based on term markets) still needs to be better mathematically theorized for letting the whole thing really work well. And other aspects of the project needs work in order to start it all and make it more complete.

It's possible, and not even so difficult, to make breakthroughs for solving important world's problems, and be famous.
I see no point to hide it. I don't even fear that anyone might steal the idea. Not only because I care much more to see it implemented than to be main contributor (or even, to be known as the discoverer), but also because, in my experience, nobody is interested.
Most people much prefer to stay lazy-minded and coward (and eventually to follow the crowd in their vain and standardized ways of using their intelligence and "trying to be the best" : PhD, Nobel etc), than to dare understanding and trying to do something completely different that will actually have the best chances of success but in a completely unusual manner.
As the very idea of thinking big and being after huge purposes in unusual ways repels most people (no matter that it may actually be easier than many shorter-sighted projects), and between the risk to succeed and the insurance to fail, most people usually choose the latter.

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Most pure mathematicians that I have spoken to, and I would describe a lot of my interests as pure mathematics, do it because they are curious, rather than have some great desire to become world famous. Though, one can become well-known in small circles.

 

There is some satisfaction in constructing something for the first time, or proving a theorem, or finding an example or counter example. It is a bit like being an explorer, you search many different paths and out of them a small few lead to somewhere previously undiscovered.

 

Of all the greatest mathematical discoveries, I would say those that link different areas of mathematics together have the biggest impact. For example index theorems which link analytical data with topological data. One of my own interests in how geometric ideas can be applied to the theory of Lie algebras and higher order generalisations.

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In case it was not clear : for me too the core motivation was curiosity. Being famous is not a significant goal for me. Instead, it is a moral concern to find something widely useful to do.

I was curious and puzzled about how the world works (in economical aspects and not only in physical ones), what are its troubles and how they may be resolved. I also have satisfaction in doing such findings for the first time, and the importance and novelty I found in my searches often came from the fact they are important theoretical problems that other people did not resolve yet, because true thinkers usually went away to "another planet" and abandoned these problems to more short-sighted people.

I know the world of pure mathematics is huge, I did go quite far in abstraction and I did feel how wonderful it can be, but I personally feel that "going too far" in pure abstraction may reduce the relative interest of things per quantity of efforts, because of the increasing complexity that makes further progress harder and harder, and purely remaining in the abstract may end up in relative dullness in the long term. For example I can agree it was wonderful to develop all those dazzling concepts at the basis of the poof of independence of the Axiom of Choice and the Continuum Hypothesis, but then, as this independence turned out to remain stable by lots of large cardinal axioms, it seems to me that further insistance of trying to "resolve" the continuum problem by desperate searches for more axioms that might determine it, though the acceptability of such further axioms is much less clear, becomes of poor value. I have a feeling that the possible interest of still higher searches in this and other purely theoretical fields is slowly dying out.

 

The same in physics : what's the point of finding out already in this 21th century more of how the universe behaves at the fundamental physics level, while we already know the laws determining almost all physical phenomena except in the first 10^-7 s after the big bang and in a specially designed 7.5 billion euros accelerator ? All right it may still be somehow interesting, but... is it really more interesting than to wonder whether and how this world can survive one more century without falling into any world war, global chaos and huge irreversible loss of biodiversity, frequent natural disasters and the like, given the overpopulation and environmental destructions ? And whether with the right intelligent work we can do something about it ?

Personnally, I find the latter more intellectually challenging.

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The same in physics : what's the point of finding out already in this 21th century more of how the universe behaves at the fundamental physics level, while we already know the laws determining almost all physical phenomena except in the first 10^-7 s after the big bang and in a specially designed 7.5 billion euros accelerator ? All right it may still be somehow interesting, but... is it really more interesting than to wonder whether and how this world can survive one more century without falling into any world war, global chaos and huge irreversible loss of biodiversity, frequent natural disasters and the like, given the overpopulation and environmental destructions ? And whether with the right intelligent work we can do something about it ?

Personnally, I find the latter more intellectually challenging.

 

Just speculation, of course, but if we do know the physics that govern those first moments after the big bang, the potential is there to be able to develop some novel energy source, or propulsion source, or many other technologies that could go a long way toward alleviating some of those issues. Such as war over energy sources like oil.

 

In short, pure research's gain are rarely immediately obvious. Often, the fruits of that labor come some time later. It is a fair question to wonder if the large amount of money spent couldn't be better spent somewhere else, but the gain from pure research do have value.

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Hello,

 

I'm almost 30 and I've decided to quit my job in order to pursue mathematics full time. Basically, I want to discover something that will make me famous and put my name in math books around the world. That's it in a nutshell.

 

Now, I'd like you to give me some much needed insight into how realistic my new found dream is. Please understand that I've had some talent in math as a kid, which was a decade ago, and that in order to realize my dream I'll be living and breathing mathematics, all day, everyday, for the rest of my life.

 

Thanks in advance for any insight you're willing to share with me.

I'll be the guy to say "don't quit your day job"...

 

Unless you have a substantial amount of money, enough to sustain the lifestyle you would be comfortable with, you are better to keep a job, arguably one that does not drain you mentally, but allow you to pursue your dreams in your spare time with no undue pressure to accomplish something you feel would be of great significance...just putting that out there

 

Best of luck in any case, and I hope you enjoy your pursuit

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