Where It All Begins: The Introduction (A New Beginning)

If you’ve hung around mathematicians for a while, then you know there’s a fine line between the MATHEMATICAL GENIUS, a groundbreaking leader with breathtaking vision and imagination, and a homeless dude with a bunch of mimeographed papers and bladder control issues.  For example, in grad school, I got the pleasure of meeting the following two individuals:

1)  Chubby guy who randomly appeared in lectures, classes, and seminars, who pushed around a small shopping cart full of papers and books, and asked embarrassing rambling questions of visiting Nobel laureates giving talks


2)  Thin but wiry guy who looked uncannily like Rasputin, who rode around campus on a motorized stand-up scooter of his own making, so if seen from a distance (when you couldn’t see the scooter) he looked like he was spookily levitating at 15 mph through campus.

One of these gentlemen was a random hanger-on that no one could get rid of, and one was on the faculty.  With tenure.  This is more evidence that social skills, charm, even sanity aren’t factors in success in math and science — it all comes down to if your theorems are correct.  The most famous example of this was Paul Erdos, a man whose daily life habits would put him squarely in the “homeless & crazy” camp but was nevertheless one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, maybe one of the top 10 number theorists of all time.

In this Tour De Dork, we follow the story of Paul Erdos (probably one of the first historical figures I’d love to meet — forget Lincoln!) to where it inevitably leads, to Kevin Bacon and (of course) Black Sabbath.  Read on, for the fascinating story that will lead us to the People At The Center Of The Universe….

<< Back   >> Part I.  Paul Erdos, the Kevin Bacon of Math
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