## Posts Tagged ‘**David Hilbert**’

## The mathematician’s tricks

A long time ago an older and well-known number theorist made some disparaging remarks about Paul Erdős’s work. You admire Erdős’s contributions to mathematics as much as I do, and I felt annoyed when the older mathematician flatly and definitively stated that all of Erdős’s work could be “reduced” to a few tricks which Erdős repeatedly relied on in his proofs. What the number theorist did not realize is that other mathematicians, even the very best, also rely on a few tricks which they use over and over. Take Hilbert. The second volume of Hilbert’s collected papers contains Hilbert’s papers in invariant theory. I have made a point of reading some of these papers with care. It is sad to note that some of Hilbert’s beautiful results have been completely forgotten. But on reading the proofs of Hilbert’s striking and deep theorems in invariant theory, it was surprising to verify that Hilbert’s proofs relied on the same few tricks. Even Hilbert had only a few tricks!

## Quote of the Day

In dealing with mathematical problems, specialization plays, as I believe, a still more important part than generalization. Perhaps in most cases where we unsuccessfully seek the answer to a question, the cause of the failure lies in the fact that problems simpler and easier than the one in hand have been either incompletely solved, or not solved at all. Everything depends, then, on finding those easier problems and on solving them by means of devices as perfect as possible and of concepts capable of generalization. This rule is one of the most important levers for overcoming mathematical difficulties; and it seems to me that it is used almost always, though perhaps unconsciously.

## Quote of the Day

He who seeks for methods without having a definite problem in mind seeks for the most part in vain.

## Quote of the Day

A mathematical problem should be difficult in order to entice us, yet not completely inaccessible, lest it mock at our efforts. It should be to us a guide post on the mazy paths to hidden truths, and ultimately a reminder of our pleasure in the successful solution.