Friday, July 27, 2012


At another math conference. Talk math all the time or only some of the time?

The traditional Wednesday afternoon break is certainly appreciated; I did no math and instead did some sightseeing and a lot of walking. A good change from sitting and writing for hours.

I have some math friends who can keep talking math endlessly: over dinner, after dinner, over drinks, over breakfast, in conference rooms with no food, during hikes. Other math friends keep changing the topic away from math. Part of this is a question of age and concentration: it's mainly my older or more experienced math friends who can talk endlessly and grad students who can't keep it up -- and I remember grad school and being exhausted by the math talk. Another part is personality. Some people are just more one-track than others.

During the school year, while teaching, I was very appreciative of conferences and the chance to talk serious math. It simply did not happen at my home institution much, unless I was teaching someone about this math. This summer I am more interested in a bit of balance but I still have a heightened appreciation of how rare and important these chances are. I don't think my grad school friends understand that. I hope I am not alienating my grad student collaborator by my endless mathematical conversations with others. This grad student, after all, can return to her home institution and be surrounded by research mathematicians who will chat with her and give her feedback and ideas. Things are not quite the same for me, although next semester I will be back in the research milieu. 

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