TITLE: ... But You Doesn't Have to Call Me Lefschetz AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 06, 2006 4:02 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In the last two days, I have run across references to John von Neumann twice. First, I was reading The Geomblog yesterday and found this:
It reminds me of a quote attributed to John von Neumann:I've had that feeling in computer science... A few months ago I described something similar, but in that case I did come to understand the course material; it only seemed as if I never world. My "just get used to it" experiences came in an area right up Suresh's alley: Computational Complexity. I loved that class, but I always felt like I was swimming in the dark -- even as I did well enough in the course. Then today I was cleaning out a folder of miscellaneous notes and found a clipping from some long-forgotten article.
In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
In Princeton's Fine Hall, someone once posted a "Scale of Obviousness":I'll venture to say that students at every institution occasionally make such lists and discuss them with their friends, even if they are too polite to post them in public. That's good for the egos of us faculty members. In our fantasies, we are all von Neumanns. In reality, most of us are Bohnenblusts at best and more likely Wedderburns. And we all have our Lefschetz days. -----
- If Wedderburn says it's obvious, everybody in the room has seen it ten minutes ago.
- If Bohnenblust says it's obvious, it's obvious.
- If If Bochner says it's obvious, you can figure it out in half an hour.
- If von Neumann says it's obvious, you can prove it in three months if you are a genius.
- If Lefschetz says it's obvious, it's wrong.