Math superhero in training

Steve Yegge has a new project. He’s in training to become a math superhero. Or at least a sidekick. He said that math/stat folks superheros and he wants to join them.

In his presentation at OSCON Data 2011 on Monday, Yegge said that all the hard problems require math and statistics. So he’s quitting his job at Google to study math in hopes that he can solve big problems three to five years from now.

His enthusiasm for math is naive and inspiring. I gather from some of the articles he’s written that he’s an original thinker and a hard worker. It’ll be interesting to see what he does.

Update: As pointed out in the comments, Steve Yegge clarified on his blog that he is not quitting Google, only his project at Google.

11 thoughts on “Math superhero in training

  1. Well he’s my hero already. I think it’s a great idea and luckily there is still hope for me :)

  2. You dont have to quit your job to study maths. Just read through the Schuams guides and Dover books – allot cheaper than forgoing an income, and whilst you only have 5 hours per day to contemplate mathematical concepts outside of work, it takes time to grok and perculate subconciously.

  3. This was a great talk! I found his math naïveté refreshing. It’s not clear that he quit Google—I only heard him mention quitting the “cat picture” project inside Google. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets in trouble…

  4. Interesting. I’m just hoping it’s true.

    Some of us have already spent a lot of time studying math and are looking to put it to good use.

  5. What a pity! I know Steve has a lot of devotees and it never ceases to amaze me that even “intelligent” people have this need to put someone on a pedestal and pay homage. But I don’t quite understand your need to write about it. I watched his presentation (which has no real substance) and got nothing inspiring from it. There are so many people doing what they love and furthering their fields but no one sings any praises of them (nor is there a need for that). But, for some reason, software engineers think too much of themselves and as soon as they make some money – by virtue of being in the right place at the right time – they think they are the smartest of the entire planet (Disclosure. I am a software engineer/manager and I have made more money than I should have).

    I am not waiting for Steve to solve any “real/hard” problems anytime soon. But, I fully expect him to blog/lecture about whatever he does do and quite entertainingly (to make up for lacking substance). But I do hope your love for Steve would be not so strong as to blog about it again :)

  6. PhilM: I didn’t write this to pay homage to Yegge. I just thought his enthusiasm for math was remarkable.He has all the excitement of someone with no experience, and that’s both good and bad. The talk is a little more interesting because the speaker has a recognizable name, but I’d find it interesting nonetheless if an anonymous person gave it.

    My experience has made me much more skeptical of data mining, especially with regard to cancer — I work at the world’s largest cancer research institution — but his talk made me think I may be a little too skeptical just as he’s naive.

    I stand by my conclusion that it’ll be interesting to hear what Yegge does. A lot of math/stat people are ignorant of (good) software development, and Yegge might make a difference by collaborating with them.

  7. SteveBrooklineMA

    I’ve been disappointed with the NBA recently. Sure there are good players out there, but are they really taking it to the next level? For a few months now, every day, my wife and I have spent an hour in the backyard shooting hoops. One half hour of free throw practice, and then a little one-on-one. Well, it’s time for me to get a little more skin in the game. I’m quitting my job to become a professional basketball player. My 45+ years of life experience, together with my math background, are just what pro-ball needs. It’s just the first step in a program I believe will catch fire. It’s a new paradigm for our ever-more obese nation. I call it “Everyone’s a Professional Athlete.” Who’s with me?

  8. @SteveBrooklineMA: There definitely is naïveté in Yegge’s approach, but even so I think the analogy is problematic. I don’t think he’s claiming that mathematicians are not good at math; don’t forget that he’s addressing software professionals. A better analogy might be that he *is* an NBA player and he feels that aspects of his style of playing might benefit if he plays e.g. golf on the side.

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