You know, I can think of something and make it real. How cool is that?
It is, in many ways, the ultimate sacrifice a [creator] can make--to be totally consumed by his or her creation, to the exclusion of everything else.
-- Peter Molyneux, Founder of Lionhead Studios
Fermat's last theorem cracked in 1993 by using the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil
Friday, 19 November, 1999, 18:00 GMT
PROF. ANDREW WILES: Perhaps I could best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of entering a dark mansion. One goes into the first room and it's dark, completely dark, one stumbles around bumping into the furniture and then gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is, and finally after six months or so you find the light switch, you turn it on, suddenly it's all illuminated, you can see exactly where you were.
ANDREW WILES: I never use a computer. I sometimes might scribble, I do doodles, I start trying to find patterns really, so I'm doing calculations which try to explain some little piece of mathematics and I'm trying to fit it in with some previous broad conceptual understanding of some branch of mathematics. Sometimes that'll involve going and looking up in a book to see how it's done there, sometimes it's a question of modifying things a bit, sometimes doing a little extra calculation, and sometimes you realise that nothing that's ever been done before is any use at all, and you just have to find something completely new and it's a mystery where it comes from.
PETER SARNAK: Maybe he's run out of ideas. That's why he's quiet, you never know why they're quiet.
ANDREW WILES: It was a Monday morning, September 19th and I was trying convincing myself that it didn't work, just seeing exactly what the problem was when suddenly, totally unexpectedly, I had this incredible revelation. I realised what was holding me up was exactly what would resolve the problem I'd had in my Iwasawa theory attempt three years earlier. It was the most important moment of my working life. It was so indescribably beautiful, it was so simple and so elegant and I just stared in disbelief for twenty minutes. Then during the day I walked round the department, I'd keep coming back to my desk and looking to see it was still there, it was still there.
ANDREW WILES: There's no other problem that will mean the same to me. I had this very rare privilege of being able to pursue in my adult life what had been my childhood dream. I know it's a rare privilege but if one can do this it's more rewarding than anything I could imagine.
Molecules With Sunglasses (on the discovery of buckyballs)
Monday, 9th December 1996
DON HUFFMAN (University of Arizona): I began to realise that perhaps there was something out there that we hadn't made on earth and perhaps the discovery of that would be a really exciting challenge to pursue, so when I learned of this I immediately in my young wisdom thought I knew the answer and even published a paper on it, which was of course wrong.
WOLFGANG KRATSCHMER: He was believing it must be something very, very peculiar. And I was believing it was just junk.
RICK SMALLEY: We told him: that's fine, all this astrophysical stuff sounds very interesting, but it frankly wasn't really what we wanted to do in this laboratory. After all, we already knew everything there was to know about carbon...
ANDY KALDOR: At the time I was being considered by most of my colleagues as being pretty wild, even daring, to publish those results.
RICK SMALLEY: You can imagine this excitement that you've discovered a way of putting 60 carbon atoms together and it turns out not only to be beautifully symmetric but it's a soccer ball too.
HARRY KROTO: At that point when you have a hypothesis which explains two major results, then you can be sure it's right, and at that point I realised that I would not have to commit suicide over the Buckminsterfullerene idea.
DON HUFFMAN: The amazing thing is that the whole process was so incredibly simple.
RICK SMALLEY: We'd in a sense tried too hard with high technology and not just simply gone down and tried the simplest thing...
PROF ORVILLE CHAPMAN (University of California, Los Angeles): I sought to answer a single question: if God would give me the grace to make one molecule, what would that molecule be?
ORVILLE CHAPMAN: It is certainly a revolution in the subject. One has now a molecular carbon to work with. The applications all of these very intriguing things that are appearing, are only the tip of the iceberg.
ANDY KALDOR: There's a big difference between scientific excitement, which I think is fantastic, and the ability to deliver a product for somebody to use. The fastest development of a completely new concept usually is on the order of a couple of years, maybe three years, so we are still on the first year. Give us a chance.
HARRY KROTO: Really I like working in the dark. For me, science is something to do with fun and solving puzzles where I really don't know what the answer is.
The Time Lords
Monday, 2nd December 1996
DAVID DEUTSCH: I myself believe that there will one day be time travel because when we find that something isn't forbidden by the over-arching laws of physics we usually eventually find a technological way of doing it.
(mrimer at cs dot byu dot edu)