A Week in the Life of a Mathematician

Professor Falconer is a leading figure in fractal geometry. His book “Fractal Geometry: Mathematical Foundations and Applications” is a popular entry-level book that every student in the field reads. Recently, he visited CUHK and gave a talk on classification of self-similar fractals by group theory.

A Week in the Life of a Mathematician
(with apologies to Michael Flanders and Donald Swann)

‘Twas on a Monday morning I had a bright idea,
I was lying in the bath tub and the strategy seemed clear,
For a problem posed by Erdös back in nineteen forty nine,
On sequences dilated into subsets of the line

‘Twas on a Tuesday morning I jotted down my thoughts,
I covered backs of envelopes with surds and aleph noughts.
After several cups of coffee I began to feel inspired,
And a lengthy calculation gave the answer I desired.

‘Twas on a Wednesday morning I wrote the details out.
My lemmas and corollaries left little room for doubt.
I filled up many pages just to get the logic right,
And with epsilons and deltas I made it watertight.

‘Twas on a Thursday morning I typed the paper up,
With “slash subset” and “slash mapsto” to say nothing of “slash cup”.
My LaTeXing was perfect, printed out it looked so good,
Should I send it to the Annals? I rather thought I would!

‘Twas on a Friday morning I read the paper through,
I checked out every detail as good authors ought to do.
At the bottom of page twenty in an integral I found,
I’d divided through by zero and the proof crashed to the ground.

On Saturday and Sunday I was too depressed to care,
So ’twas on a Monday morning that I had my next idea.


(This poem appeared in The London Mathematical Society
Newsletter, September 2009)

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