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.

KJF

(This poem appeared in The London Mathematical Society

Newsletter, September 2009)