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Loving and Hating Mathematics by Reuben Hersh, Vera John-Steiner

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Mathematics as Solace

When looking at mathematical life, we usually focus on its public face: the institutions in which mathematicians work, their interactions within their communities, their jokes and eccentricities, their prizes and competitions, their breakthrough discoveries. In the following pages we address the more personal consequences of loving mathematics. We ask, “Is mathematics a safe hiding place from the miseries of the world?

According to Gian-Carlo Rota, “Of all escapes from reality, mathematics is the most successful ever. It is a fantasy that becomes all the more addictive because it works back to improve the same reality we are trying to evade. All other escapes—sex, drugs, hobbies, whatever—are ephemeral by comparison. . . . The ...

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