Fun fact: the lead female character in Numb3rs, Amita Ramanujan, was named after Srinivasa.
I love that show. I only got into it a few months ago, and wound up binge watching the whole series over a month or two. While it wasn’t perfect, it was really nice seeing a TV show that painted math/science in such a positive light, and helped illustrate some of the applications of math. I may be wrong, but I half guess that somewhere out there, a few people decided to major in math after watching that show! Heck, it made me want to go back to school and get a degree in Applied Mathematics.
Is there something specific you’d like to point out? IMO, just posting a wikipedia page is not really adding much value.
Posting a link to a biography of a person of interest to this community seems pretty valuable to me; after reading this I’d like to see more. Pretty notable person, behaviour and circumstance: the first paragraph on the page is a good summary, no need to replicate it here.
The thing is: wikipedia is jam packed with interesting things in it. My preference is if someone is going to post a general information dump like this they should have some aspect of it they think is particularly worth talking about. But it’s a free Internet.
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To be clear, I know about Ramanujan and I find him incredibly interesting, my point is about the meta-discussion on if wikipedia pages should be posted without some direction to their posting.
Good feedback, thanks. dwc pretty much nailed what I found interesting about Ramanujan but I can try to find something to add next time.
The most interesting thing about Ramanujan is that he’s about the only kind of apparent crank that turned out to be the real deal. He sent his letters to two other mathematicians before Hardy, but they dismissed him as a crank. (Another source.)
Mathematical cranks are very abundant. The old crank.net website is still up where you can see what cranks put out. Ramanujan at a glance looks indistinguishable from cranks, but because Hardy decided to take a second look, he discovered a genius. This is very rare.
Ramanujan never claimed you can divide by zero or whatnot. He offered new and insightful solutions to well-known problems. Seems unfair to in any way lump him in with the cranks. Nor did Hardy “discover” him ex nihilo. Many people had vouched for his ability before and also directly to Hardy. It is the multi-year collaboration between Hardy and Ramanujan which is significant.
To me what is interesting about Ramanujan is the originality of his work, his tendency to be correct, and the way in which his solutions to problems have a depth which opens new areas of insight beyond the original problem.
Hardy, like every prominent mathematician, would get regular letters from cranks. These letters would look a lot like what Ramanujan sent: a bunch of disconnected formulas without explanation or reason. If Hardy hadn’t noticed that some of the formulas were already known and true, he wouldn’t have tried to work out the new ones and realised that Ramanujan was on to something.
I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with your assessment. I’d hardly call Ramanujan a crank. Crank implies he was just making shit up with no real attempt to prove anything. That was hardly the case for him.
He’s better described a hobbyist mathematician; and history recognizes quite a few hobbyist mathematicians as making great strides in mathematics.
The writings that Ramanujan sent to Hardy looked weird and lunatic. Ramanujan didn’t have the training to express his ideas, so he just sent Hardy a bunch of weird-looking theorems and formulas that seemed crazy or implausible, with no proof or explanation, just the results. Hardy was going to dismiss it, but he stopped to take a closer look. He noticed that some of the results that Ramanujan had sent him were already known, and he was able to prove some of the ones that were unknown. That’s when he realised that Ramanujan wasn’t a crank.
Not all cranks put out complete lunacy. Some of them start out saying some things that make a little sense or string together things that make some sense in isolation but not together. For example, if you are not an expert, these cranks might seem plausible at first:
Oops, that first link is wrong. It should have been:
There is a movie for Ramanujan, The Man Who Knew Infinity. I just read a review recently here.
I saw A Disappearing Number at the Lincoln Center. Cool, though weird at times.