Friday, April 8, 2011

I did not make my brain, but I'm helping finish it.

John Updike, in his memoir Self-Consciousness,describes the act of stuttering as the process of “trying, with the machete of the face, to hack my way through a jungle of other minds’ thrusting vines and tendrils.”

According to Updike, however, his stuttering wasn’t just an aggravating mental hiccup which got him teased in school. Instead, the affliction was responsible for his lifelong interest in words. He was hurt into writing


Though I do not really like giving entrance exams, I'm now compelled to do so. But that is tolerable, given the little torture that the United States of America is subjecting me to for entry into its Eden (of mathematics). But I cannot forget what the gifted mathematician, Vladimir Arnold had to say about GRE. After writing about the way French students are made to think in a rigid way (and turn into narrow-minded folks) to solve a problem (even an incorrectly framed one), Arnold says:

"The United States has a different danger. No Russian professor is able to solve correctly the problem they give in the Graduate Record Examination, the official entrance examination for graduate studies: find the closest pair to (angle,degree) among the pairs: (time, hour), (area,square inch), and (milk, quart).

Every American immediately solves it correctly. The official explanation for the correct response (area, square inch) is: one degree is the minimal measure of angle, one square inch is the minimal measure of area, while an hour contains minutes and a quart contains two pints.

I always wondered how it is possible for so many Americans to overcome such difficulties and become great mathematicians. One physicist in New York who
solved the problem successfully told me that he had the correct model of the degree of stupidity of the authors of such problems."

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