Meaning to Please
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Sometimes mathematical structures are designed to please. They are brought into this world not to serve but to charm. They live not only because they are true but also because they intrigue. They demand attention because they excite wonder and delight.
Mathematics that is pleasurable is not new. But I think that something has changed in the last hundred years or so. Mathematics created specifically to please gets more attention today. And there seem to be more mathematicians (and others) whose private and public joy has been the pleasure of their mathematical creations. It is this phenomenon—the compelling mathematical structures, the people who found them, and the society that appreciates them—that is the focus of this column.
I’ll set the stage today by talking a little about mathematical structures, about mathematical pleasure, and about intention. Then I’ll show you something unexpected.
To the world, mathematical expertise is special. Still more special is the capacity to...