In my experience mathematics professors are usually wankers (I’m sure Prof Boaler will know what I mean).I remember on a project I was manging in the nuclear power industry having a long discussion with a maths lecturer over the logic of our field names in a database.
But why do you call it that, it must have some significance,” he’d plead.
“Field names are just labels, to identify things to search routines, they’re purely arbitary, you could call a field Fred or Jim or Polly Flinders, anything you like, its just an identifier. And the full item name is too long for the maximum field size” (this was a long time ago,) but he still could not get it. The man could not understand anything that was not mathematical. He was obsessed with maths but absolutely useless at anything practical.

Another example, I was leading one of four teams implementing a government system nationwide. One of the teams had a maths professor seconded from some university. His team leader was a blunt Yorkshireman named Peter Blanshard who had been an engineer in the Air Force.

One day this guy is messing around in the car park with a length or rope, a calculator. He’d bought one of those boxes tat goes on top of a car for extra luggage. A small crowd had gathered to watch the performance.
Eventually Peter joined us, “What’s that silly c*** f****** about with? He wanted to know.
“We think he’s trying to work out how to tie a box to the top of a car Pete,” someone said.
“Oh f*** me,” says Peter and storms off towards the car park calling over his shoulder, “See what I have to put up with?”

As he reported it later they guy had bought the box to put his tent and other equipment in, had it delivered to work and had to secure it to his car before driving home.
“He told me he was trying to work out how to tie it on using the least number of knots,”

We’d all seen Peter grab the rope and in a couple of minutes have the box securely fixed using six knots and a couple of twists as any of us would have. Job done.

About two hours later, in the office, the mathematician piped up “I’m still sure I could have done it with four knots.”
“You could,” said Peter, “If you wanted to risk your load coming loose and blinding the driver of a 35 ton truck driving behind you.”

In real life it is more often about what works than what is mathematically elegant.

Opted for comfortable retirement before I was fifty due to health problems and burn out. Now spend my time writing and goofing around. Home: northern England..

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