Sunday, August 3, 2008

Worse Things Than Being Wrong

"There are surely worse things than being wrong, and being dull and pedantic are surely among them."

This quote is from Mark Kac, a Polish mathematician who was born today in 1914 in a Russian part of Poland; he came to the United States in 1938, just in time to avoid the start of WWII and the persecutions that came with being a Jew. He liked to play with words as well as numbers: he once asked "Can you hear the shape of a drum?" as a way to think about spectral theory (no, you can't). And he made a useful distinction between an "ordinary genius" like Hans Bethe and a "magician" like Richard Feynman.

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