drugs and math

A friend of mine forwarded me an interesting quote from Paul Hoffman’s biography on Paul Erdos: “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth”

Like all of Erdos’s friends, Graham was concerned about his drug-taking. In 1979, Graham bet Erdos $500 that he couldn’t stop taking amphetamines for a month. Erdos accepted the challenge, and went cold turkey for thirty days. After Graham paid up–and wrote the $500 off as a business expense–Erdos said, “You’ve showed me I’m not an addict. But I didn’t get any work done. I’d get up in the morning and stare at a blank piece of paper. I’d have no ideas, just like an ordinary person. You’ve set mathematics back a month.” He promptly resumed taking pills, and mathematics was the better for it.

For those who are not familiar with Erds, he produced a wide variety of theories on mathematics (number theory, combinatorics, etc.). Of course, he’s also a pop culture reference for those interested in social networks. Erdos numbers are effectively the degree in which one is removed from collaborating with Erdos on papers. [Think Kevin Bacon game for mathematicians.]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 thoughts on “drugs and math

  1. Lin

    I think erdos is a very corageos and irreverent man like Zephoria. I want more. Can I use this in my magazine or is this a money to publish repreints of your erudite gems of controversial trivia.

Comments are closed.