Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Marcus du Sautoy

In September 2007, Wikinews interviewed Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and author of Symmetry: A Journey Into the Patterns of Nature (Finding Moonshine, UK title) and The Music of the Primes.

Two questions from the interview:

As a mathematician you are dedicating yourself not only to research but also to popularization. Why?

I think being a scientist is about making discoveries but it is also as much about communication. I mean discoveries really cannot be said to exist, I think, unless you communicate them to other people. So, for example this conference is about communicating to our peers but I think that communication can go to a much broader audience. It brings the mathematics alive much more, if you can communicate it to more people. But also, you know, I became a mathematician because people, the generation above me, made the effort to excite the general public about mathematics and I thought that was what I wanted to be when I grow up, so my hope is as well that my popularization will encourage the next generation of mathematicians but also to encourage politicians to recognize that maths is an important part of our society and needs to be funded.

* * * * *
And what about your last book Finding Moonshine?

This is a slightly more challenging writing project for me, because it combine both historical story on symmetry with a personal story of what I do as a mathematician. It is divided into twelve chapters each one a month in a year of me being a mathematician. As I tried to combine what I do - I think people find deeply mysterious what a mathematician does all day - so I tried to give people a little bit of access to the world that I live in. But you are seeing also some historical story, a bit like The Music of the Primes but looking at symmetry instead.

Read the full interview.

The Page 69 Test: Symmetry.

--Marshal Zeringue