No, I am not talking about the ordinary tale of the love, passion and mathematics triangle. Nor am I talking about the film, “The Rites of Love and Math” where, having realized that they are seeing each other for the last time, the Mathematician and Mariko make love more passionately than ever, before he tattoos his mathematical equation on her body. “Their love will live in this formula engraved on her beautiful body…” I am talking about experiences most mathematicians go through much more often than you think, yet they talk about them much less often than they should.
It is when these so-called nerds get close to the peak of the “plateau phase” of the mathematical “discovery cycle”, which is often characterized by an intense sensation of pleasure. Yes, “doing it” –that is mathematics when you are scoring with it– takes you through a four-stage process of meta-physiological responses: the “excitement phase”, the “plateau phase”, the “orgasmic phase”, and the “resolution” phase (literally!). Sounds familiar?
The most remarkable part is when you try to prolong and hang on to the orgasmic phase, by proceeding slowly and deliberately through the last set of calculations. You know by now that “you got it”, and that you are on the way to climax. You know that your computations –though not completed yet– will be leading to the right answer, to the peak. You still need to verify everything, write all the details, cross the t’s, and dot the i’s, before it is a done deal. But you are in no hurry anymore because you want to savor your triumph some more. You don’t want it to end so soon.
Sometimes you even wait for the next day to make the final calculations. It doesn’t mean though that you will sleep in the meantime. You just want the sensation to last as long as possible, before you finally succumb to the urge of reaching that peak and declare victory.
If you don’t believe me, take it from the mouth of a Fields medalist. Do you remember my friend Cedric Villani from 100 posts ago? Here he is again in this fabulous description of orgasmic mathematics and more … And don’t miss what Hermann Weyl said.