User talk:Jef Reinten

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Hello. In response to your comments on my user page, I've edited that article and added more comments to its discussion page, which I've also pasted below:

I have removed nonsense to the effect that some of these people work in mathematics. Numerical calculation is not at all the same as mathematics. Lest anyone think I'm talking about sophisticated mathematics understood only by professionals, I hasten to add that I am not. Consider the Pythagorean theorem, a statement known to all 15-year-olds (except, perhaps, in the USA and among some isolated xenophobic tribes of cannibals). If one discovers a new proof of that theorem, one has done a bit of elementary mathematics. If one relies on the theorem to know which numerical calculations need to be done to solve a problem, then the person to whom one entrusts the details of the calculation need not understand the mathematics. This is not to say that calculating prodigies do not understand any of the mathematics that justifies their calculations; rather, it means that the field in which they are prodigies is numerical calculation; they are not discovering any new mathematics. This error is another instance of the fact that most educated lay persons do not suspect that such a field as mathematics exists. For example, a professor of medicine once asked me whether graduate students in mathematics must discover new things in mathematics in order to earn a PhD. Of course, as in other fields, the answer is "yes", but this professor went on to say, "Isn't all of mathematics already known?" In fact, hundreds of scholarly journals are devoted primarily to the incessant publication of new discoveries in mathematics -- not something that those autistic savants do, contrary to the statement I've just corrected on this page. Notice the strange negative way in which the medical doctor phrased the question: instead of saying "Is everything already known?" she said "Isn't everything already known?" It seems as if people use that negative form only when their talking about an assumption they've made without thinking about it. I question any assertion that those autistic savants to who someone said may be working "in the field of mathematics" have made novel discoveries suitable for publication in the aforementioned journals. And no one replied here on this talk page, for months. That is why, being reminded on my own discussion page that I had written that query, I came back to this page today and altered it. Michael Hardy 22:38, 3 Jun 2004 (UTC)