Math is Hard

(From my blog “Android Sisters”, May 1998)

When I start to think myself too much of a smartypants, I read about math. The problem is, that I get so dingdanged excited about it, it just makes me want to become a theoretical mathematician, or a theoretical physicist. Somedays, I think that would be ten times easier than trying to convince Janice Raymond that we should share the same bathroom.

My total favorite television show is “The Proof” which is this PBS special about the insanely complicated proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Though, there’s also this guy who says that he figured out the simple-dimple way of proving the theorem, and he also has 10 new articles about the Clinton Sex Scandal. But as a rule, I try not to automatically assume that someone is a wacko, since I get accused of being all sorts of things that I’m not. But that’s just the way it is for me.

There is also this interesting side story about Sophie Germain who was part of the long long line of mathemeticians who pounded their heads against the wall trying to come up with a proof (which Fermat failed to include with his theorem, saying that it wouldn’t fit in the margins of his notebook). It also makes me a little bit edgy, because it’s one of those stories that is about how she had to hide her identity by taking on the role of a man in order to learn mathematics and then to correspond with some of the guys who were working on the problem. It’s a pretty sad story, mostly because she is described as being so totally brilliant that she attracted too much attention and had to out herself to her instructor. To me, this story doesn’t have a huge amount of trans-ness in it, but more reflects the difficulties that women had and continue to have breaking into mathematics. Of course, the headlines play it up as some kind of Billie Tipton or Pope Joan kinda thing, but I guess that sells nowadays.

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