“Laundry Taken in Here”

(Originally posted at http://joelnoche.multiply.com/journal/item/104/Laundry-Taken-in-Here on July 16, 2012 11:12 PM)

Here’s a nice quote from page 294 of S. M. Ulam’s Adventures of a Mathematician (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991):

Chen Ning Yang, the Nobel prize physicist, tells a story which illustrates an aspect of the intellectual relation between mathematicians and physicists at present:

One evening a group of men came to a town.  They needed to have their laundry done so they walked around the city streets trying to find a laundry.  They found a place with the sign in the window, “Laundry Taken in Here.”  One of them asked:  “May we leave our laundry with you?”  The proprietor said:  “No.  We don’t do laundry here.”  “How come?” the visitor asked.  “There is a such a sign in your window.”  “Here we make signs,” was the reply.  This is somewhat the case with mathematicians.  They are the makers of signs which they hope will fit all contingencies.  […]


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