At what times is a mathematician happy?

Paul Seymour has an article titled “How the proof of the strong perfect graph conjecture was found?“, which is an informal and rather nice documentary-type article, and gives a high-level description of the process of finding the proof of the strong perfect graph theorem.

In Section 7, “What’s left?”, he writes

Having worked in Berge graphs for three years now, we have developed intuitions and skills that
took a long time to grow, and also a great fondness for the graphs themselves. Unfortunately the
main problem is solved, and there is a cold wind blowing, almost as if it’s time to go and work in a
new area … There was one other really nice question: what about a polynomial time recognition algorithm? Can one decide in polynomial time whether a graph is Berge? Is the question in NP? These were still open … We thought it would last us for another three happy years, but sadly its resistance collapsed after just a couple of months, and Maria and I managed to twist it into an algorithm.

(Bolding was done by me.) My point is that, Seymour was happy as long as there was an interesting problem to work on, and as soon as it is solved, the happiness is gone! While this may seem contradictory to a non-mathematician (who might think that the mathematician becomes happy after he solves a problem), it is SO TRUE. A mathematician has the best feeling in the course of solving the problem, and maybe a little while after solving it, but not any later!



One Response to “At what times is a mathematician happy?”

  1. mohsen Says:

    درست ميگيد آقاي مهرابيان
    مسئله در رياضيات براي رياضيدان مثله معشوقس براي عاشق كه
    عاشق خودش را هلاك ميكني كه بهش برسه اما وقتي رسيد يكدفعه اون شور و اشتياقش تموم ميشه
    و انگار نه خاني رفته و نه خاني اومده حل نشدن بعضي مسائل رياضي براي رياضيات نعمتي بوده
    كه وصفش ناگفتنيه مثل قضيه فرما . من اونجا نبودم ولي شايد فرما روش نشده بگه كه چهرصد سال ديگه
    ميفهميد كه چرا در جواب حل مسالش گفتم جا براي حلش نيست. سلامت و موفق باشيد عباس جان

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