Thursday, May 26, 2016

Did they know more?

I recently watched The Man Who Knew Infinity and although the film is mediocre on so many levels, you can't help but empathize with the protagonist's foreboding. The mathematical genius, Srinivas Ramanujan, is portrayed as an individual who knows way too much but doesn't have the patience to make others understand how he came to know so. In simpler words, he doesn't believe in proofs. He comes up with a theorem and expects the world to believe that it's true. There's no spoiler in admitting that a majority of his theories were true but he didn't have a pleasant time on this planet, especially the latter part of his young life. He passed away at 32. And that's something which baffles me. Some of the finest mathematical minds, who came too close to understanding everything, passed away young. Did they pay a price for knowing too much? After all, Ramanujan wasn't the first. William Clifford left at 33; Clebsch was 39; Bernard Riemann was 40; Galois at just 20; Niels Abel at 26 and so did Gâteaux and Ramsey; Eisenstein was 29. Although it's impossible to wrap your head around their body of work, it's understandable these weren't common people. They were speaking in a language that confounds the brightest of minds even today. In retrospect, Stephen Hawking somehow escaped the noose but to his credit, that didn't stop him from cheating on his loyal wife while being glued to his wheelchair. On the other hand, Newton died a virgin at the age of 84.

1 comment:

bb said...

earlier the age of mortality was much lower, probably because some of commonly used vaccines these days were unavailable at that time and death from infectious diseases and epidemics, even war, was pretty high. i truly believe that everyone sort of upped their intelligence, productivity accordingly. after all, they had to die young.