Given my proclivity for hero worship, I devour the news items of interviews of Fields medalists etc; i found some gems from the interview of 2006 winners;

the actual interview can be read here.

Here are the excerpts

M & P:How do you prefer to work on mathematical

problems? Alone or in collaboration?

Okounkov: Perhaps you can guess from what I

said before that I like to work alone, I equally like to

freely share my thoughts, and I also like to perfect

my papers and talks.

There may well be alternate routes, but I personally don’t know how one

can understand something

without both thinking about it quietly over and over

and discussing it with friends.When I feel puzzled,

I like long walks or bike rides. I like to be alone with

my computer playing with formulas or experimenting with

code. But when I finally have an idea, I can’t

wait to share it with others. I am so fortunate to be

able to share my work and my excitement about it

with many brilliant people who are at the same time

wonderful friends.

M & P: Do you have any other interests besides

mathematics?

Werner: I often go to concerts (classical music)

and play(at a nonprofessional level, though) the violin.

Often, I hear people saying”yes,math and music

are so similar, that is why so many mathematicians

are also musicians”. I think that this is only partially

true. I cannot forget that many of those I was playing

music with as a child simply had to stop playing

as adults because their profession did not leave

any time or energy to continue to practice their instruments:

doctors usually have many more working

hours than we do. Also,music is nicely compatible

with mathematics because—at least for me—it

is hard to concentrateon a math problem more than

4-5hours a day,and music is a good complementary

activity: it does not fill the brain with other concerns

and problems that distract from math. It is hard to

do math after having had an argument with somebody

about non-mathematical things, but after one

hour of violin scales,one is in a good state of mind.

Also, but this is a more personal feeling,with the

years, I guess that what I am looking for in music

becomes less and less abstract and analytical and

more and more about emotions—which makes it

less mathematical. . .

But I should also mention that, as far as I can see

it, mathematics is simultaneously an abstract theory

and also very human: When we work on mathematical

ideas, we do it because in a way, we like

them, because we find something in them that resonates

in us (for different reasons, we are all different).

It is not a dry subject that is separate from

the emotional world. This is not so easy to explain

to non mathematicians, for whom this field is just

about computing numbers and solving equations.

This is a classic answer given by Terry Tao in a different interview available here

What is happiness to you—and have you found it?

A: Tolstoy once said that happy families are all alike, but

each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I think

the most lasting type of happiness is not the one based

on any sort of achievement, activity, or relationship,

but simply the more mundane type of happiness that

comes from contentment—the absence of stress, discord,

misery, need, self-doubt, bitterness, anger, or

other sources of unhappiness. Of course, if you do take

pleasure in some achievement or relationship, then so

much the better, but it should not define your happiness

to the extent that any hitch in that achievement or

relationship causes you undue grief. I’m quite content

with my own life, and also have the luck to enjoy my

work, my family, and the company of my friends, so I

would consider myself very happy.

I find these particularly illuminating. Also please note that the links to the papers (which have appeared in respective journals) require subscription from some kind and may work only from some university computers or public libraries etc;

By the way, Terence Tao has a beautiful blog which can be accessed here.