Proofs, interviews and elephants (field diary notes)

(field diary excerpt, 2013)

This morning I went to a Foundations lecture and a Differential equations lecture. Then I did a brief but very important interview and even got hold of some data about the UK academic labour market. Yay! Successful day, and it’s not even lunchtime. But I was hungry, so lunch has already happened and now I’m onto my second coffee of the day. A sociologist is very much a device for making hypotheses about the world out of coffee, just like a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.

Important and timely interview gone well, new data at hand, and a steaming cup of coffee: maybe that’s the way a mathematician feels when s/he manages to complete a small step of an elephant proof? Are any mathematicians or students reading this? How does completing a step from a proof make you feel?

Now I’m thinking of an invisible elephant standing patiently in the Mathematics common room, waiting to be drawn out of the air. That’s very much how my project looks like in my imagination. Stuff to be found out, it’s already there, and yet I have infinite possibilities for drawing my elephant well or badly.

Oops. I’ve just committed a cardinal sin by mentioning the word “infinite” – and I don’t have an infinity licence yet!


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