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
M & P: Do you have any other interests besides
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.