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MathGroup Archive 2012

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Re: Landau letter, Re: Mathematica as a New Approach...

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  • Subject: [mg127624] Re: Landau letter, Re: Mathematica as a New Approach...
  • From: Andrzej Kozlowski <akozlowski at gmail.com>
  • Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2012 21:34:20 -0400 (EDT)
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On 8 Aug 2012, at 09:16, "djmpark" <djmpark at comcast.net> wrote:

> Landau just expresses the frustration that non-mathematicians have when
> confronted with mathematical derivations and proofs that strive for rigor.
> They may need the results and material but, darn it, it's hard. When they
> finish reading a proof they might say: "Well, I suppose so." (Somehow I
> can't imagine Landau saying that, but maybe he was speaking for others as
> well, or perhaps he was truly frustrated with the presentations."

Actually, it was exactly the other way around. Landau was one of those theoretical physicists that were also immensely talented mathematicians  (like Edward Witten who has got both a Fields medal and The Fundamental Physics Prize). Such physicists when they need to use certain mathematics often develop it themselves rather than learn from mathematicians (sometimes because nothing of the kind they need exist and sometimes because for them this the quicker route). For example, Landau did this with Catastrophe Theory, as described by Arnold in his little book on the subject. Physicists like this are very exceptional. When they take a look at mathematics as taught by mathematicians they often find that all things that seem to them important they already know and the rest is just formalisation, which they don't care about. But since the great majority of physicists are not Landaus, Wittens, Penroses etc., I don't think it would be very wise for them to take these people as their r
 ole mode
 ls (in their approach to mathematics, of course).

Andrzej Kozlowski



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