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WHY do you do what you do?

  1. Jul 15, 2012 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'd like to take some time to reminisce and go back into our pasts. I understand many people believe anecdotes like these are pointless, but I still feel that they are important to understand how we may inspire the next generation of learners as well as keep us motivated in our academic careers.

    First off, I was talking to a friend at a math competition a few months back when the question came up: why in the world are we doing this? We could be at home, playing some video games, or perhaps reading a good book. What compels us to come out to these functions with a pen at hand to work through math problems out of school?

    We traced our origins to key events in the past. For me, it was a particular lesson in middle school when I proposed a simpler solution to an example problem than our teacher showed us. For my friend(from a different school), it was a very influential elementary-school teacher who taught his class the profound significance of numbers in life.

    While these things don't have much of an effect on us today, I believe they helped set things in motion. Surely, I don't study mathematics purely because I love pointing out better solutions (provided I'm even able to!) . I study mathematics now because I'm both perplexed by and amazed at how formal logic can be in proof-writing.

    So, I'd like to ask you all: What is it that you study, and what drives you to study the subject(s)? And could you perhaps trace back to what initially inspired you (not necessarily at a young age)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2012 #2
    I get a feeling that I shouldn't be the first to ask this question. If a similar thread has already been created, a link to it would be greatly appreciated!


  4. Jul 15, 2012 #3


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    The quote from Wolverine is, "I'm the best there is at what I do, and what I do isn't very nice."
    I was half-way along that; I was the best at a couple of things, and some of the things that I did weren't nice. (I always preferred to be nice, but sometimes it wasn't practical or even possible.)
    Now, being handicapped, I do what I do because AISH pays for it. That is watching TV, playing Adventure Quest, and haunting PF.
  5. Jul 15, 2012 #4
    Why am I doing physics? Well, the undergrad classes seemed useful, highly applicable and fun so I went to grad school. Now I'm just seeing more and more formalism, less and less applications, and the entire thing drift away from concrete physical examples, useful problem solving and interesting phenomena into stuff resembling applied math.

    Hopefully, once past mechanics and quantum, I can get to interesting things with real applications like optics, statistical physics and condensed matter.
  6. Jul 15, 2012 #5


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    The reason I do what I do, is a result of a lot of things that have happened and the relation of all of those things.

    How I was brought up, who I have met, what their interests were and how I acquired those same interests, and the collection of all experiences have shaped my own perspective, what I value to be really important, and ultimately how I now live my life.

    I imagine that this is going to be largely the same for everyone regardless of any kind of classification that may be placed on the individual.
  7. Jul 15, 2012 #6


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    Chiro, that was probably the most succinct and informative description that could be used in this instance. Good on ya', mate.
  8. Jul 15, 2012 #7


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    Cheers Danger.
  9. Jul 16, 2012 #8
    I did creative writing as an undergrad, and I chose it because it was my favorite class in high school, because I loved reading and writing, and because writing was something that felt very natural to me--like I couldn't give it up even if I wanted to. During my first year of college, I took a math class that really blew my mind. I'd never thought math could be fun or creative or beautiful or exciting. The more time I spent in the Math Department, the more I grew to love it, so now I'm getting ready to start a master's degree in math. (I still love writing, by the way.)
  10. Jul 16, 2012 #9


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    So...you're saying nothing has changed? :tongue:
  11. Jul 17, 2012 #10


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    Of course it has! Computers didn't exist when I was doing what I never did. :grumpy:
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