The power of positive thinking

Read this Snopes article and tell me you don’t want to be George Dantzig.

In case you don’t feel like reading the whole article, the gist of it is this: a graduate math student wandered into class late one day, noted a couple of math problems written on the board, mistook them for homework, solved one of them and turned it in a few days “late” with apologies to the professor. Six weeks later his professor came knocking on his door to inform him that he had solved an unsolved math problem (the problems on the board had not been homework) and that he wanted to publish the student’s homework as a research paper.

Seriously, this story suggests to me that all teachers should pose unsolved problems to their students without revealing that the problems are unsolved on a regular basis. I wonder how often something like this could happen?

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2 thoughts on “The power of positive thinking

  1. Bragaadeesh says:

    Just thought of sharing a similar situation (I did not read the original post though). We are having some complex problems in our project and there are problems that don’t have any solutions or solutions that we try to achieve by ramming our head on a wall.
    We give these problems during interviews for recruitment and the answers that certain candidates give will be interesting. Although not everyone will even come close to a solution, we’ve had genuine and decent answers too!!

    • Daniel says:

      That seems like a really good idea! And who knows, maybe one day some brilliant candidate will walk in and blow your mind by implementing an O(N) sorting algorithm or something 😉 I totally believe that humans’ perception of their own potential is artificially low. If we don’t know what we’re incapable of, then obviously we don’t know what we’re capable of.

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