The math books my husband leaves lying around the house usually fall into one of two categories:
- Books with titles that are deceptively simple (e.g. Algebra).
- Books with titles that are unintelligible (to me).
I was surprised by a book I found on the kitchen table yesterday that seemed to fit in to neither one of those categories. It was a copy of Structure and Randomness: Year One of a Mathematical Blog by Terence Tao. As I learned from my husband and a quick Wikipedia scan, Terence Tao is kind of a mathematical genius. He’s a full professor of mathematics at UCLA and winner of the Fields medal, along with too many awards to mention. Yet he maintains a blog that is not a vehicle for self-promotion but instead is a means of math promotion. In it he gives plenty of mathematical food for thought, but also throws in career and writing advice for aspiring and practicing mathematicians.
What I found most fascinating about his blog is that it really is just a way for him to hold interesting mathematical conversations that may or may not be inspired by his own research. The description of the first book based on his blog talks about blogging as a means of publicly sharing mathematical “folklore” that is typically passed down between professors and their advisees. Although the math in this blog is lost on me, the spirit of his writing exemplifies everything that can be great about academic/professional blogs. At their best, these blogs are a way for individuals to ask interesting questions and toss around ideas that don’t really fit into established scholarly publishing models. My favorite librarianship blogs are ones that explore possibilities within the profession, question the methods we adopt in libraries, and propose new ways of thinking about our traditional practices (whether they be in teaching, reference, collection development, etc.). I’d venture to guess that the best blogs in any field do some variation of the same thing: spark and nurture creative thinking.