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Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the in-your-dreams dept.

Math 186

jomama717 writes "Another chapter in the fascinating life of Srinivasa Ramanujan appears to be complete: 'While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved. Now 100 years later, researchers say they've proved he was right. "We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years," Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said. Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a rural village in South India, spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice, Ono said.'"

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Guy was so smart it's scary. (1, Flamebait)

nopainogain (1091795) | about 2 years ago | (#42408601)

I can't wait to see what the elite-math-folks around here post below here.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408665)

What we have to say is "Zeilberger is going to be so eaten up by jealousy."

He tapped on to his full potential (-1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#42409053)

Srinivasa Ramanujan was given a brain, a brain that is not that different from the one we have in between our own ears.

The only difference between Srinivasa Ramanujan and 99.99999% of the human race is that he opted to use his brain power as much as it could be sustained.

If only the rest of 99.99999% of the human population can do the same - becoming a galaxy-roaming race wouldn't stay merely a dream for long.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#42409211)

I suspect that you're quite wrong. The man was a mathematical prodigy. I don't think it was a matter of choice at all, but rather some sort of unique wiring

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#42409291)

I suspect that you're quite wrong.

I might be wrong.

But, what if I am right?

The man was a mathematical prodigy.

Mathematical prodigy or any other type of prodigy means nothing, so far as the brain goes.

The grey matter in between your ears contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called "prodigies".

I don't think it was a matter of choice at all, but rather some sort of unique wiring

Unless it is proven that that deceased Indian math genius suffered from some acute type of "savant syndrome", I seriously doubt his brain has any "unique wiring" of any kind.

My view is that it's more of a "will" - the will to think, to explore, to use as much brain capacity as the brain can provide, without any negative effect.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#42409409)

There's no way to know because he's dead, but there's certainly a body of evidence suggesting neurological differences between genius level mathemetic prodigies to suggest that a poor young man from an Indian village who literally taught himself 100 years worth of mathematics was in possession of cognitive abilities beyond the average person's.

The amount of grey matter is an obscenely crude way to measure intelligence. What I find interesting is your need to make the man average and ordinary. Does the possibility that some have greater cognitive capacity than others bother you?

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (1)

elucido (870205) | about 2 years ago | (#42409685)

There's no way to know because he's dead, but there's certainly a body of evidence suggesting neurological differences between genius level mathemetic prodigies to suggest that a poor young man from an Indian village who literally taught himself 100 years worth of mathematics was in possession of cognitive abilities beyond the average person's.

The amount of grey matter is an obscenely crude way to measure intelligence. What I find interesting is your need to make the man average and ordinary. Does the possibility that some have greater cognitive capacity than others bother you?

Or maybe he was just more motivated than average. How many people would want to spend all their best moments in life on math?

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409981)

There are absolutely kids who do this, even today. Most of them will never come near the level Ramanujan was operating on.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (-1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#42409721)

What I find interesting is your need to make the man average and ordinary.

Did I ever??

My point being that the
BRAIN of the man is not that different from that of the other 99.99999% of the human race.

And I did say - and I welcome you to re-read what I had said above - that the one thing that differentiate that man from the rest is his WILL (or motivation) that drove him to use his brain to the fullest.

Does the possibility that some have greater cognitive capacity than others bother you?

Could it be that you, Sir, are suffering from reading comprehension that had led you to baselessly accusing me of the thing you are accusing me of?

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409817)

I don't think he has any comprehension problems.
You come off as the sort of asshole who thinks, "I could be Batman... but I just can't be bothered with pushups."

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42409745)

Or possibly that he just developed a mental model of mathematics that was particularly well adapted - Feynman used to muse along these lines, that whilst the equations of, for example, quantum mechanics would be common to two physicists they would both still have a different model in their heads, one better suited to visualising X and the other better for Y. It's entirely possible that top mathematicians have simply developed a better in-head-model.

It is a popular fact that nine-tenths of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong. Not even the most stupid Creator would go to the trouble of making the human head carry around several pounds of unnessary gray goo if its only real purpose was, for example, to serve as a delicacy for certain remote tribesmen in unexplored valleys. It is used. And one of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary and turn the unusual into the usual. – Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Lack of fingers was another big spur to the development of camel intellect. Human mathematical development had always been held back by everyone’s instinctive tendency, when faced with something really complex in the way of triform polynomials or parametric differentials, to count fingers. Camels started from the word go by counting numbers. – Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409467)

Chimp grey matter contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called prodigies. Chimp DNA is pretty similar to human DNA too. A chimp is not going to equal Ramanujan in math despite how much willpower it has. They just don't have the ability.

So your argument is just as silly as those "you can do anything if you just try hard enough" bullshit cliches.

If you think it's so simple, go ask the top athletes/musicians why they aren't all number one despite most of them spending much of their life training, practicing etc. You think it's because they lack willpower to push themselves to their limits? They're not trying hard enough?

I may not know my exact max limits, but I know that no matter how much I try I am never going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, and I'm never going to be as good at math as Ramanujan. Thinking otherwise is foolishness or hubris even.

I'm all for people trying to improve themselves and others, but I'm against spreading bullshit. The world would be a better place if more humans fully realized and admitted how crap they were, but still persisted in helping and bettering others despite their limitations.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#42409629)

The grey matter in between your ears contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called "prodigies".

So if I put your brain in a blender, it should work the same afterwards right? Silly argument.

Unless it is proven that that deceased Indian math genius suffered from some acute type of "savant syndrome", I seriously doubt his brain has any "unique wiring" of any kind.

Perhaps not unique in that you'd see a difference on a brain scanner at the macro level, but I think it's more about being wired right or wrong. Look at people playing chess, the poor players aren't making any less of an effort but they're just overlooking moves or forgetting what paths they have and haven't explored or miscalculating because they don't see the piece is pinned. Your average player has an early botched Pentium and flaky non-ECC RAM, the grandmasters an Xeon with RAS features and ECC RAM. They very rarely think wrong or remember wrong, of course there's also training but I think it's also a lot what you're given from nature's side. It doesn't help if the same number of neurons are firing if in one brain it only leads to noise and nonsense and in the other to answers and solutions.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409669)

He said exactly the opposite. He said: the wiring is important. O_o

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#42409779)

He said exactly the opposite. He said: the wiring is important. O_o

No, just reading comprehension fail on your end. The post I replied to by Taco Cowboy clearly argued it wasn't and that it is only a "will" to use your full mind.

Re: He tapped on to his full potential (3, Insightful)

Rational (1990) | about 2 years ago | (#42409739)

"The grey matter in between your ears contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called "prodigies"." Interestingly, the grey matter between our ears contains largely the same chemicals as the matter between the ears of most vertebrates, and in smaller amounts than some other mammals. As far as reductionism goes, I think you've taken it to a pretty absurd level.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (1)

quenda (644621) | about 2 years ago | (#42409683)

The only difference between Srinivasa Ramanujan and 99.99999% of the human race is that he opted to use his brain power as much as it could be sustained.

If only you were lucky enough to have a brain half as good as his, you'd realise that your hypothesis was a load of utter bollocks.

Re:He tapped on to his full potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409771)

If only the rest of 99.99999% of the human population can do the same - becoming a galaxy-roaming race wouldn't stay merely a dream for long.

Ah, the old "omniscience == omnipotence" fallacy again.
You seem very sure about outcome of it. I'd say: "If only the rest of 99.99999% of the human population can do the same - possibility of becoming a galaxy-roaming race wouldn't stay merely a guess for long."

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (5, Interesting)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about 2 years ago | (#42408675)

Obsessed, and smart.

He had a mathematician's mind, sure. Probably not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright and particularly attuned for maths. But what he had that sets us apart, was a raging obsession. The kind of demon that consumed Newton and possessed him to calculate pages of logarithms and Tesla to study from dusk 'til dawn and further, without respite.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0)

nopainogain (1091795) | about 2 years ago | (#42408713)

i guess sometimes that can be as caustic as useful.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (-1, Flamebait)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#42408719)

Let's not compare Tesla to Ramanujan or Newton. The latter two are in a very different achievement class. Tesla eventually turned to crackpottery. Yet clueless fools believe him even today :(

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (4, Insightful)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about 2 years ago | (#42408759)

So, because he ended up losing his mind, that invalidates all his accomplishments?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (2)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 2 years ago | (#42408993)

Quite the contrary. It hits close to home, but there is strong correlation that that creativity and mental illness are hopelessly linked [harvard.edu] . The implication is that those who can reason outside of accepted boundaries are those who create revolutionary thoughts

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#42409201)

Problem is, if you're off your guns just a little, you get dropped by the Genius Envy crowd and then you're just cooked.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408775)

Ramanujan died before he turned crackpot, newton was completely wrong (doesn't take time dilation into account).

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (2)

anza (900224) | about 2 years ago | (#42408809)

Newton wasn't wrong. He just discovered physics, to first order.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1, Offtopic)

JonySuede (1908576) | about 2 years ago | (#42408957)

He was wrong about chastity and most probably god

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (4, Interesting)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about 2 years ago | (#42408789)

Newton later turned to alchemy, and was obsessed with disproving the trinity.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (5, Insightful)

korgitser (1809018) | about 2 years ago | (#42409119)

Actually, Newton was an alchemist foremost. He only did physics and calculus to help with his alchemy.
And no, alchemy was not the crackpot gold-seeking they teach it was in history class. Promises of gold were and still are what gets you the funding. Alchemy was a larger discipline concerned with truth about the world, a kind of philosophy 2.0 that finally recognized the need for empirical data and experiment; the most advanced worldview up to that point. Later, as it progressed, physics and chemistry were branched out from it, other parts merged into medicine, philosophy and humanities.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (2)

WhoBeDaPlaya (984958) | about 2 years ago | (#42409471)

So which one was he? Fullmetal, flame, sowing life, etc?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42410005)

Another way of putting it: all the stuff we remember Newton for was for him a fun hobby project. Not only was alchemy a big focus of his, he also played around with religion and magical ritual (as did several other British academics in his time).

Same story with Rene Descartes, a couple generations earlier: His focus was first and foremost on his philosophical works, the algebra work (including inventing exponents and analytic geometry) was just for fun.

It gives you an idea of how ridiculously smart these guys were. I mean, it's one thing to have a lasting impact on something you've devoted your life to, but it's even more amazing to be just saying "Hey, I think I'll do some genius level work in math today". Especially because they were living in a time when there was plenty of superstition screwing up science - for comparison's sake, Newton was about 50 years old when the Salem Witch Trials were going on.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408885)

Tesla's work was paramount, so much so they named the unit of magnetic flux after him. Newton got force. Ramanujan...

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#42409255)

noodles?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | about 2 years ago | (#42409457)

bah, posting to cancel a mistaken mod. Sorry about that.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0, Troll)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#42408901)

Tesla was always about crack pottery. The myth of his genius drives me crazy.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409073)

Myth? If you think it's a myth, then you know nothing about him. He may have been a bit insane, but he was still a genius.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (3, Interesting)

pollarda (632730) | about 2 years ago | (#42409325)

Yes, Tesla was a bit eccentric in the latter part of his life. On the other hand, his behavior is quite symptomatic of exposure to high frequency electromagnetic radiation. Just because he fried himself doesn't make his accomplishments less impressive. Madame Currie had a similar problem when radiation which nobody thought was bad for you at the time.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409463)

" is quite symptomatic of exposure to high frequency electromagnetic radiation"

Too bad you were fried and went into crackpot territory before you got to be revered as a genius right?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 2 years ago | (#42409335)

Newton spent most of life working on Alchemy--far more than he did on Physics or Mathematics. He didn't turn into a crackpot, he was one from the start.

So...what was your point?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408751)

He had a mathematician's mind, sure. Probably not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright and particularly attuned for maths

What the fuck?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408831)

What makes you think his only as much bright as 'we' consider reasonably bright?

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (5, Informative)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#42408843)

Newton was very much after glory and fame. Became an MP, attended the House of Lords, (but never delivered a speech ever), got himself appointed as the Controller of the Mint and excessively obsessed about priority and credit. BTW logarithms were calculated by John Napier, not Newton.

Ramanujan is a totally different ball game. Completely self thought, from a book of identities and formulae. He found a sort of Cliff notes for the BA in Math in England. He assumed that is the way to present mathematics. Just the final result without any deriviation or proof. Did not know what was already invented and well known. He reinvented the wheel so to speak so many times. Almost all the major math break throughs of the previous century, he reinvented all over again, independently. Think about it. One century of mathematicians original work completely reinvented by this lone clerk toiling away in colonial India working as a harbor master's assistant. He presented his inventions without any proof or even a hint of how it was arrived at. Most of his first letters were rejected as some crackpot's ravings by math professors in England. Hardy was the only one who saw that among all the well known identities, that were being presented as new inventions, were real gems never seen before. He invited Ramanujan to England and the rest was history.

A special tit bit: BTW he and I both have the same ancestral temple, that of Lord Oppiliappan at Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, but his favorite god was not Oppiliappan, but Nama Giri Devi, the ancestral god of his mother's family. I wish we were related. His personal life was very sad. Died at age 30. His wife was left as a destitute and ended up working as house maid.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1, Funny)

QQBoss (2527196) | about 2 years ago | (#42409469)

A special tit bit: BTW he and I both have the same ancestral temple, that of Lord Oppiliappan at Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, but his favorite god was not Oppiliappan, but Nama Giri Devi, the ancestral god of his mother's family. I wish we were related. His personal life was very sad. Died at age 30. His wife was left as a destitute and ended up working as house maid.

It would usually only be a tit bit if you are referring to one of the gods with 8 or 10 breasts or something like that. In most other cases, it would be a tidbit ;-).

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#42409645)

It would usually only be a tit bit if you are referring to one of the gods with 8 or 10 breasts or something like that. In most other cases, it would be a tidbit ;-).

While "tidbit" is standard American English, this word has had different spellings in previous years and in different regional standards. (The OP is from India, so some differences in his English can be expected). See e.g. Merriam-Webster [merriam-webster.com] for a mention of the alternative spelling "titbit".

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409653)

Tidbit is simply a bowlderization of titbit - so congratulations to OP on reclaiming the original, less prudish form

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | about 2 years ago | (#42409813)

titbit was a bowlderization of tidbit from what I was aware, but you are right that the American version is a bowlderization of the British version.

tidbit
c.1640, probably from dialectal tid "fond, solicitous, tender" + bit "morsel."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

which I give more credit to than Merriam-Webster which can only manage a
Origin of TIDBIT
perhaps from tit- (as in titmouse) + bit
First Known Use: circa 1640

At least a probably sounds more authoritative than a perhaps.

That said, yes, I like it and I stand corrected.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408847)

And Nassim Haramein, who is very alive and kicking today... a brilliant mind from Hawai who has lived years in a trailer, just studying quantumphysics like hell, nothing stopping him. See theresonanceproject.org

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408981)

Shut up Nassim you fucking crank.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (1)

thePsychologist (1062886) | about 2 years ago | (#42409079)

Actually, he was unusually gifted in mathematics and certainly much brighter than the average mathematician, at least in terms of raw power and intuition. Evidence of this can be found both in his work and in the comments on him by G.H. Hardy, the eminent English mathematician who helped Ramanujan come to England and who collaborated with Ramanujan for years.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (4, Informative)

binarstu (720435) | about 2 years ago | (#42409277)

Probably not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright...

From what evidence did you draw this conclusion? I'm not personally qualified to assess Ramanujan's brilliance (and neither are you, I suspect), but G.H. Hardy, the western mathematicion who worked most closely with Ramanujan, certainly was. What did he think? "I have never met his equal, and can compare him only with Euler or Jacobi." [usna.edu] By all accounts, Ramanujan's abilities went way, way beyond "not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright". He possessed one of the most gifted mathematical minds in recent history.

Re:Guy was so smart it's scary. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409533)

Probably not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright and particularly attuned for maths.

Give a reasonably bright math graduate an entire lifetime and he is unlikely to be able to reinvent all the math that Ramanujan reinvented due to not knowing it already existed, nor invent all the new math stuff that Ramanujan came up with. Ramanujan did all that in only 32 years.

The merely obsessive would get stuck in ruts or fruitless paths. Ramanujan came up with tons of stuff.

The way his mind works is pretty different:

He was sharing a room with P. C. Mahalanobis who had a problem, "Imagine that you are on a street with houses marked 1 through n. There is a house in between (x) such that the sum of the house numbers to left of it equals the sum of the house numbers to its right. If n is between 50 and 500, what are n and x?" This is a bivariate problem with multiple solutions. Ramanujan thought about it and gave the answer with a twist: He gave a continued fraction. The unusual part was that it was the solution to the whole class of problems. Mahalanobis was astounded and asked how he did it. "It is simple. The minute I heard the problem, I knew that the answer was a continued fraction. Which continued fraction, I asked myself. Then the answer came to my mind," Ramanujan replied.

This is not the "normal" savant rapid addition/multiplication sort of stuff.

If only he was born in this last generation... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408625)

He could be running a 7-11 and courteously frowning at me, as is indian custom, while serving me an overpriced hotdog.

Re:If only he was born in this last generation... (2)

2fuf (993808) | about 2 years ago | (#42408715)

Or gently shaking his head in confirmation.

Conjecture me this Batman. (0)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 2 years ago | (#42408653)

Re:Conjecture me this Batman. (2)

fleebait (1432569) | about 2 years ago | (#42409893)

You lose, Robin.

From the original "2 + 2 = 5 for SUFFICENTLY LARGE values of 2"

Simple to prove, with a question: "how large a cup does it take to hold 2 heaping cups of flour taken twice from the barrel?"

Died at 33 (2)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 years ago | (#42408659)

Just imagine the contributions he might have made if he had lived. Such a shame.

It's just a hunch, but I have a feeling, unlike say technology, that mathematics is one of those fields where discoveries aren't always inevitable. Either someone thinks up of some things or they don't.

Re:Died at 33 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408683)

Most mathematicians do their best work by 30.

Re:Died at 33 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408693)

How fucking insightful. You should write for the horoscope section, man.

Re:Died at 33 (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 2 years ago | (#42408977)

So what is the significance on these functions? Are they useful for anything?

Re:Died at 33 (3, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#42409103)

Yes, they help minimize passing on the Math gene to the next generation.

flunked out twice? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408669)

twice as in binary or twice as in decimal?

I hear BRITNEY SPEARS flunked two children out the same placenta..

Man pushed to death in front of NYC subway train (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408671)

A mumbling woman pushed a man to his death in front of a subway train on Thursday night, the second time this month someone has been killed in such nightmarish fashion, police said.

What in the hell is wrong with people? What would Srinivasa Ramanujan think of our society? He did not live for long, but accomplished much in his life.

Re:Man pushed to death in front of NYC subway trai (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408689)

Second time? I bet he would have found a pattern and prevented further deaths.

Re:Man pushed to death in front of NYC subway trai (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408879)

Yeah, he lived through WWI where people gassed each other and bayonetted each other in the gut while waiting to be shelled in the trenches. Yet I'm sure he'd think we're nuts now.

Flunked out of college twice (5, Interesting)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 2 years ago | (#42408679)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize. If over in India this man had been nurtured in college, and allowed to stay in math courses (or even better conduct his own lines of study), might he have had a more enjoyable or productive life? If we recognize genius and cultivate it, what might grow in that garden?

Re:Flunked out of college twice (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408733)

Probably a lot of pot.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42409851)

Many mathematicians use drugs to get a different perspective on a problem if they're stuck. Marcus du Sautoy freely admits to the odd joint (and I know of at least two other from personal experience, and xkcd's Balmer Peak isn't entirely fictional.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408783)

The current educational paradigm produces people who know more and more about ever narrower areas of knowledge....imagine what we could do if we thought across those areas rather than within them, something like Brunner's idea of the Synthetist.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (3, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#42408915)

Why do you think we have such advanced technology? Because people specialise in very narrow fields. A person doesn't have infinite capacity to learn and invent. They also don't have infinite time, or any method of instantly transferring knowledge.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409603)

An engineer who never had to take a biology class never looks to nature for a simple solution and keeps banging his head against the wall studying more and more about solutions that have already been tried.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#42409989)

As the AC also said right now some of the best ideas in engineering are coming from studying nature.

Why are plant cells so efficient at harvesting light and how can we duplicate that ability?

The real trick about advanced technology it is driven by material science and nature does somethings incredibly awesome.

Re:thought across those areas (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#42409163)

Hi AC,

I know about four sentences of a whole lot of stuff. It's like it's a party game, you can drop a key word or two, but the min any actual specialist asks you a question, you're hosed.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408825)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize.

Then maybe the US would continue to rein over the rest of the planet indefinitely.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (2)

fleebait (1432569) | about 2 years ago | (#42409933)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize.

Then maybe the US would continue to rein over the rest of the planet indefinitely.

Or until a year later, their narrow minded specialization became obsolete, with the new graduating class.

I studied communications:
vacuum tubes, teletype, rotary switches -- all the modern stuff of the time. Even had 2 weeks of transistor theory, a promising new technology, suitable mostly for portable radios at the time.

Because of those unwanted "required" electives I took philosophy and logic (totally of no use in electronics), although some of it applied to math in a nonsensical way.

And then the world changed. And fourier analysis came along, and then a to d developed, and then multiplex signals happenned for missile instrumentation and then digitization happened, and then it became possible to do discrete analysis of complex waveforms in real time.

Too narrow minded in college leaves you ultimately with the workers laid off in the steel mills, with no transferable skills.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (2)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 2 years ago | (#42408927)

There is evil that does not want unconstrained genius, lest too many learn truth.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42408931)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize.

We'd have a bumper crop of PhDs in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42408945)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize.

If you don't want a liberal arts education, don't go to a liberal arts college, although some will let you design your own curriculum as long as you meet some basic requirements and get the department head(s)'s approval.

And there are plenty of highschools that focus on specific areas of study: they're called "magnet" schools.
You can also find magnet programs within normal highschools, which allow students to focus their studies on one subject.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 2 years ago | (#42409413)

This doesn't advance the conversation, does it? If designing your own curriculum benefits some students, why not find out:
1. Why it benefits them.
2. How to find out who it might benefit.
3. How to make it available to those who might benefit.

As opposed to saying "make a choice on which college you attend" (which for many many students is restricted by past academic performance and financial caste) and letting the students who don't end up at schools that give students that kind of reign.

One approach is scientific and will move education forward. The other is reactionary conservative values and will leave us with the status quo.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408963)

Ramanujan was a one-in-a-million genius.

If you "let students have free reign", you might wind up with 1 genius, but you will wind up with at least 999,999 potheads.

Besides, if you really want "free reign", why are you going to college to begin with?

Re:Flunked out of college twice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409175)

Ramanujan was a one-in-a-million genius.

If you "let students have free reign", you might wind up with 1 genius, but you will wind up with at least 999,999 potheads.

Besides, if you really want "free reign", why are you going to college to begin with?

Because I can't get a Pell Grant to sit at home and smoke weed.

Re:Flunked out of college twice (2)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 2 years ago | (#42409003)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize

It is called M.I.T. [mit.edu]

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#42409311)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize. If over in India this man had been nurtured in college, and allowed to stay in math courses (or even better conduct his own lines of study), might he have had a more enjoyable or productive life? If we recognize genius and cultivate it, what might grow in that garden?

They do let students specialize - students are free to take any course they want (as long as the prerequisites are met). There's nothing limiting a student from taking all higher level math courses, other than perhaps wanting a piece of paper at the end.

And no, you don't have to do university in 4 years. You can do it in 5 or more years, taking all the classes you want as long as your finances hold out.

The only real reason they force all students to take courses in other departments is to round them out. An engineer is useless if he doesn't know how to communicate his ideas to others, and perhaps taking some liberal arts classes gives him the tools he needs to relate and communicate. Hell, what's the point of proving some hard theorem if the only people who can understand it are people just like you - and no "lesser" mathematician can comprehend it? And really, if you're such a hot shot, two semesters of that should make for an easy A.

Hell, the programming equivalent is "bad code". Only because the original programmer has failed to communicate to the next person who maintains it through the code. (Hell, a lot of crap code doing stuff stupidly could probably be resolved by communication).

Re:Flunked out of college twice (2)

qwak23 (1862090) | about 2 years ago | (#42409383)

Actually, there are some universities that penalize you for going beyond a certain number of credits when working toward your BA/BS (if I remember correctly, Univesity of Texas at Austin is one of them, but my memory might be failing me). Which would prevent someone (outside of double majoring) from taking too many courses outside their area of specialization (major).

That said, as someone who has recently (within the last two years) started working on their college degree(s) part time while maintaining a career, I've found my opinion of liberal arts style education changing rapidly. I originally wanted to major in Physics, I still do, but the current phase of my career doesn't allow me to attend a school that offers a degree in Physics (both due to schedule and location). However I am able to pursue a degree in Mathematics on-line. When I first attempted the Physics degree many years ago, I wasn't looking forward to the general classes and wanted to just jump in and do only Physics and Math, maybe some related courses (Engineering, Chemistry, etc). I hated my English and social science classes.

Fast forward roughly a decade, now I'm working full time in a decent career and finding that those general classes I'm required to take actually have value and can be directly applied to my career as I take them. Psychology and English help with the management aspects of my job, Mathematics with the technical, History with the perspective, etc.

While specialization is certainly important in many fields, that doesn't mean a general education isn't important. English has helped me understand what I'm reading as well as write documentation, training materials and performance evaluations. Psychology has given me tools to work with both my seniors and subordinates and made me a more effective manager. Economics has given me a better idea of how our economy actually works and given me the ability to better judge (though not perfectly) politicians and their policies. What I've gained from Mathematics (through multi-variable calculus and soon linear algebra and diff eq.) and Statistics probably doesn't need to be echoed on slashdot.

10 years ago, I would have been pissed I had to take some of these classes. Now, even without the piece of paper, I've already strengthened my career and pushed past many of my peers. Where I started out just looking to do Math, and still enjoying my Math classes quite a bit, I'm now looking forward to my next English class. Hell, I even found a valid use for literary analysis the other day outside of pure intellectual wankery.
   

Re:Flunked out of college twice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409665)

Texas native, so I have heard something about this. IIRC, publicly-funded Texas universities only penalize excess credits if you're on some sort of state-funded scholarships. As most scholarship are directed for particular areas (engineering, math, navel-gazing) the intent is to keep students from leeching off the system indefinitely. The secondary effect is to keep student populations from overwhelming current facilities as it's becoming increasingly difficult to find funding to expand or renovate collegiate grands. Additionally, undergraduates are required to have a certain amount of cross-discipline classes. Google Texas Common Core Curriculum.

I'm not defending the practice, mind you, just pointing out the thought process behind it.

Re:Round them out (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#42409441)

Not really buying it.

If you got a kiddo with a 150+ IQ, your lectures on Gilgamesh will be wasted. End Of Story.

Re:Round them out (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42409861)

Disagree entirely. A little cross-training is generally good for the brain as a whole - look at the classic Feynman story where he decided to do a biology class to expand his horizons (he went to the library and asked for a "map of a cat").

Re:Flunked out of college twice (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42409527)

I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize.

You can, if you want. I spent a lot of time outside my class work studying things that interested me. Why didn't you?

The summary is incorrect (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408721)

Ono's team did not prove the Ramanujan Conjecture. It was proven a long time ago, in 1974 by Deligne as part of his proof of the Weil conjectures

Re:The summary is incorrect (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408895)

The summary is fine, it's just not very specific. A conjecture of Ramanujan's was proved, and it was one appearing in his final letter to Hardy.
The conjecture most often referred to as the "Ramanujan Conjecture" was something he had published 4 years earlier.

Re:The summary is incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408959)

Your dumb post is incorrect

Re:The summary is incorrect (5, Informative)

thePsychologist (1062886) | about 2 years ago | (#42409113)

The summary is actually referring to other conjectures from his notebooks and other notes, not 'the' Ramanujan conjecture as proved by Deligne, so the summary is not really incorrect, just misleading. It should be noted that these other conjectures are in fact not unusually important and certainly not even close to the Weil conjectures, but are nevertheless interesting.

It's a good thing he flunked. (-1, Troll)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#42408887)

Unless you're a doctor or a lawyer, your Indian degree is less than worthless.

Re:It's a good thing he flunked. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408971)

Yes as if you have been to Indian colleges. I really hate people just shooting from their behind.

I studied at IIT Delhi and Columbia. At Columbia easy to score an A in every subject and at IIT I got one A barely.
Trying getting into an undergraduate course in IIT, you will know the worth of good Indian colleges. Sometime, Google the number of IITians and IIM graduates in high position in USA, it will open you mind.

Re:It's a good thing he flunked. (2)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about 2 years ago | (#42409337)

Unless you're a doctor or a lawyer, your Indian degree is less than worthless.

Hmm... nice choice there - especially since doctors and lawyers can't generally practice in other countries based on their Indian degrees. On the other hand, a lot of Indian engineers (or engineers from most countries) can take up jobs wherever they get the opportunity. Bitter much?

Re:It's a good thing he flunked. (0, Offtopic)

amirishere (2651929) | about 2 years ago | (#42409487)

Parent is correct. I am from Iran and studied Computer Eng here. 40% of the class now reside and work in foreign countries. We have people working in Google, Amazon, Ms, and Cisco.

Another note, the prestiges subjects in Iran is engineering. So just as the brightest US kids study law, the bright kids in Iran "get" to study engineering. I am guessing the same phenomenon holds for India. This may be the reason why the Indians and the Iranians far out perform the US kids in STEM.

One final note, yeah, I studied in CE in the top eng college in Iran. So although I may not be very socially knowledgeable, I probably kick the scientific hell out of the rest of y'all.

misleading summary (1)

thePsychologist (1062886) | about 2 years ago | (#42409129)

The summary suggests that Ramanujan wrote down some results that were conjectures until now. He wrote down many results, few if any on his deathbed, and most of them have already been verified for years, though some were still open until recently. Apparently the actual article is about the closing of the last few ones only.

Re:deathbed (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#42409181)

I'm lost, he apparently wrote a bunch of stuff on his deathbed and sent it all to Mr. Hardy.

Flame-bait summary? (4, Insightful)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about 2 years ago | (#42409315)

Whenever I read submissions like this, I wonder why they put a sentence like "genius in flunked out of ...". Unless the area they were a genius in was the same one he/she failed at, it seems kind of flame-bait - trying to start an "school is useless - look at these outliers" discussion.

Ramanujan was brilliant at mathematics, and there is no denying that. But like any school/college, his was made for the average person. Sure, it would be great if education was tailored to each individual's aptitude. But we don't have a good way of finding out what that is directly yet. Instead, we throw a bunch of subjects at students, and they figure out where there relative strengths are. And they focus on one or two areas where their natural aptitude lies (or more realistically, where their job prospects and abilities/interests combine to give "best" results; best being chosen by the student. Some may chase money, others fame, others just want to solve interesting problems - applications/paycheck be damned).

And discovering outliers early is hard when the teachers themselves are not much better at their subjects than the students. If some kindergarten student started using calculus for loading of building blocks, it won't be much use if her teacher doesn't realize that what she is doing is phenomenal (especially since the child will have her own notations/symbols). Obviously, that is an extreme example, but the point remains - outliers will have a tough time in the current system.

Alternatively, we can let everyone do what they find interesting, but a majority of students will just spend time doing "fun" things like sports - which is not necessarily bad. But as long as we have the current system where you starve if you can't hold down a job doing "productive things", I think the educational system prepares most people for such a world.

Outliers are great - and can help speed up society's progress significantly. But at the end of the day, they are just that - outliers. If you design a system to help the outliers, most people (myself included) would wind up getting a very bad outcome - because most people aren't phenomenally skilled at anything (and no, being the best me I can be doesn't cut it). And if you have a lot of starving deadbeats on the street (instead of the mediocre, but holding down a job majority) I expect society to completely break down - and that won't help the outliers either.

Flame-bait comment. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42410007)

Whenever I read submissions like this, I wonder why they put a sentence like "genius in flunked out of ...".

Let's look at the sentence in question: "spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice" -- and you went off on a many-paragraph rant, when the only things that the sentence showed were that he was more interested in mathematics (some might rather say obsessed with) than the baseline, and perhaps that the school system was not set up to handle him. It does not contain an indictment of the school system, and only you thought it did, then went off on a massive rant about it. While your rant is not incorrect, and I see no problem with your conclusions, your introduction to the subject came straight from left field.

Ramanujan wasn't crazy (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42409799)

Why do people want to make this into a debate on his mental state? I think he took a phenomenal ability and used it to the fullest extent that his personal circumstances allowed. He certainly didn't wallow in an aspie tank, moaning about how brilliant he was and wasting his too short life on comic book trivia.

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