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Tech Q&A

David Ruelle

Describe your latest project.
How does the human brain of the mathematician come to grips with the totally non-human thing that is mathematical reality? The Mathematician's Brain approaches this question from both sides. It studies the natural history of human mathematics, its different facets, and also wonders what non-human mathematics could be like. The author believes that computers will in some future do good mathematics, and has mixed feelings about this development.

  1. The Mathematician
    $10.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "The book's value lies in Mr. Ruelle's description of the curious inner life of mathematicians. Their subject is very difficult." David Berlinski, The New York Sun
What inspires you to sit down and write?
Writing a book for a general audience is speaking to many people. It requires a great respect of the reader. It is a very serious thing.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
My elementary school teacher during one year was my own father. This was in Belgium during the war, under German occupation. One of his duties was to teach religion (although he was an atheist) and he did this very well telling us stories from the Old Testament. That exposition to the traditions of our civilization had a lasting impact on me.

Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
No Geek test, and clearly I am not a Geek.

Chess or video games?
Neither chess nor video.

What do you do for relaxation?
I like hiking and reading. I have hiked in remote parts of Mexico (and other places). I read about things to which I take a fancy: botany, ancient literature (Latin, Egyptian, etc.).

Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
I enjoyed very much The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
I enjoyed Jules Verne (in French), particularly The Journey to the Center of the Earth, with its mysterious text in runes.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
I think that computer technology will be most important. Whether it will improve people's lives is another question.

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
I would not want to reproduce anyone's life, but living in a period which combined science and humanism would be a great gift: ancient Greece, or the Italian quattrocento for instance.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
I was rather good in everything, but without excess (I had enough intellectual interests outside of school).

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
I would not want my computer to be more intelligent than I am. But if it could write things under dictation, that might be nice.

Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
I like the British Museum: it is a great place where you can get lost.

By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Closer to the end (a certain lack of optimism there...).

Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?
The US leads now, and may still lead in ten years, buying talent wherever it is found.

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