Monday, April 26, 2010

Loving What You Do and Solving the Biggest Problems

CNN has an Opinion Piece by Professor Terence Tao, about whom I have written about in this blog when Forbes featured him. In the Opinion Piece, Professor Tao's love of his work shines through. He is a renowned mathematician, having started his PhD at Princeton at the age of 16, and is now a Professor of Mathematics and the James and Carol Collins Chair in the College of Letters and Science at UCLA. He was born in Australia and is also a citizen of the US.

He writes that, as a child, he: loved games with clear, unambiguous rules; puzzles that were tough but fair; and the clean, abstract, simplicity of numbers and symbols. He says that: it is perhaps not surprising that [he] has been drawn to mathematics for as long as [he] can remember.

Life is not always fair, but being part of a profession that acknowledges when you solve an important problem, is very satisfying (of course, the individual gets the personal satisfaction of the discovery as well and gets it first).

Professor Tao then states that: mathematics was not just an abstract game of symbols, but could be used as a tool to analyze and understand the modern world.

Indeed, the tools of mathematics (accompanied by the use of computers, I might add) are being applied to solve problems in business (from logistics to marketing to finance and accounting). Math is used in healthcare, and in humanitarian operations. It is an essential tool in engineering, in physics, in computer science, in economics, in sociology, and even in biology. Math makes the world hum. It makes order out of disorder and helps to explain chaos. Math "works" and helps to resolve the greatest puzzles of today.

Besides what could be more gratifying than solving problems!

Bill Gates (who needs no introduction) recently visited Harvard University and spoke there. He said, in his speech, that the biggest problems require the best minds. You can find some of the problems that he believes need our attention in this Harvard Gazette article. Obviously, innovative and accessible education is the foundation for it all!