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The Calculus of Friendship by Steven Strogatz

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Proof on a Place Mat (March 1989)

Mathematicians aren’t known for their social skills. There’s an old joke in our community:

Q: How can you tell if a mathematician is an extrovert?

A: He looks at your shoes when he’s talking to you.

But what most people don’t realize is that math itself is a very social activity. We mathematicians talk to each other incessantly. We bounce ideas off one another, cogitate together, and get stuck on the same problems together. When you’re working on something as hard as math, it helps to share it with someone who understands.

Best of all is when we’re able to explain things to each other. I love that. And I’m not ...

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