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Erdos and House

i got a book on Paul Erdos who devoted his life to math and wrote > 1000 papers (most ever i think) including with 485 different co-authors.

he put off an operation for cataracts for years because the week of recovery time would prevent him doing math.

erdos put out rewards on math problems he failed to solve. he put out rewards on over a hundred problems for more money (in total) than he had.

the reason he had no money is he gave it all away. he didn't even have a home. he just travelled around and stayed with mathematicians, solved a problem with them, and moved on.

since it was before the time of email, he sent 1500 letters a year.

here is the part that is strikingly similar to some plot from House:

his friend once thought he was addicted to drugs. he took amphetamines (stimulants) all the time. they bet $500 about him going without for a month. he did it. then he said: without the stimulants i had no good ideas. you've set math back a month. and he started taking them heavily again and being productive again.

sometimes people strongly want drugs, take them a lot, and strongly protest any reductions ... and are not addicted, their *reason* tells them to do this.

even if House is physically addicted (ie he'd get withdrawal symptoms) that doesn't mean he's mentally addicted (*irrational* need for the drugs). and just b/c he resists quitting his pain killers, or taking any less, does not make him an addict. as he says, he's in pain, and the drugs help him do his job.

Elliot Temple on May 30, 2007


What do you think?

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