Friday, July 18, 2014

Why maybe difficult for fans

One of the things I've taken for granted for a long time, over a decade I think, is that it's hard to be a fan of my mathematical research. There just isn't a lot of positive that I find out there of other people discussing it, while lots of negatives, like people calling me insults like crank or crackpot.

Fun fan reality is when you get to excitedly discuss things you enjoy with like-minded people. Not search in vain for a nice thing at all, and worry if you're just being deluded by some mentally imbalanced individual and just can't quite figure out what is wrong with his math.

Which is why recently I've been more appreciative for the people who supported my research and me despite the difficulty and it's worth it to talk about why really it's so hard.

Reality is that the people who will tend to care most about ideas are not the discoverers. For instance I have lots of ideas, so I'm not terribly attached to most of them. Why would I be? On any given day I might muse over my prime research of which there is a bunch, or instead ponder my open source software program, or instead wonder about my political ideas.

Even if I focus on math, I can think about work with modular algebra symbology, or wonder yet again why I was the first person to do this thing or that thing or whatever.

But it's like you can see how people can be much more excited about something than the person who produced it in the entertainment industry, where fans--like me!!!--may get giddy, say, about Star Wars but you don't see George Lucas jumping up and down, screaming and shouting, now do you? (Maybe he does it behind closed doors.)

Actually I'm probably more excited on any given day about the latest movie I fancy than about my own research as it's so common to me. My research is with me every day, any day I wish to consider it. But great movies? They're a whole lot of rare.

So to me it's really not my job to worry about how excited other people get about, say, a partial differential equation that follows from a prime counting function, or a prime residue axiom, or a new way to count quadratic residue pairs. For me that's just part of a pile.

And I'm not excited about things like the Riemann Hypothesis or Fermat's Last Theorem aka FLT. There was a time before I had a pile of results when I DID get excited about FLT, but now it's like, who was that guy? I don't know him any more. He would dream of figuring something out wondering if it would ever happen and got taken in a bit by crowd mentality. FLT is a popular thing for people who don't know any better. For a while I didn't. Now I do.

People get excited about things that excite them. To my mind I note with some interest things I know aren't sufficiently interesting to certain people for them to be interested in solutions I discover. But that's not my problem. It's not my fault either.

Actually I think it's funny. World doesn't care. People come and go. New people are being born all the time. Let them grow up to appreciate it. History will not mind.

You know, it occurs to me that the people most motivated are among the ones who haven't figured anything out yet.

If I could get more excited about some of these things, like if I cared about the Riemann Hypothesis, maybe I'd figure out if my work could lead to its solution or not. But I can't make myself feel excitement I just don't feel. And I don't have that crowd mentality.

Some might suppose that any person who had the ability to resolve such things especially the demonstrated ability should necessarily go ahead and do it, which I used to believe. So I was very skeptical of Gauss, who is a hero of mine, about him reputedly saying he wasn't interested in FLT. Now I believe him. Before I thought maybe he must have worked on it, got nowhere and didn't want to admit it. Now I'm sure he just didn't find it interesting enough to bother. He wasn't lying. The crowd opinion couldn't motivate Gauss.

But that's not a bad thing. It leaves the door open for others. How many more results did Gauss really need?

I have the experience of having major math results. So I can no longer get excited about solutions in the same way I could before. I've lost that feeling, and really?

I don't miss it.

Fans of my research will be ok. The real joy is in the result, not what the discoverer does or does not do.

Or as I like to say, Sir Isaac Newton has been dead for a long time. So?

He inspired me as a kid, my hero. I thought to myself: if I had lived in his time would I have figured out the things that he did?

He didn't have to be around for that to happen. The excitement I felt as a kid motivated me.

And I'm still a fan.

James Harris

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