Topology and manifolds, introduction

Be a pure mathematician for any length of time and you will come to dread the question “So what do you do?” Okay, perhaps “dread” is too strong a word. You’ll at least learn to limit your answer, because the questioner is almost certainly not asking “Would you tell me in detail about your job?” More likely, what the questioner is really asking is “Would you please summarize what you do in the hope that it will provide a hook for further small talk?” (It won’t.)

The correct answer is “I’m a mathematician.” Occasionally people will ask for more detail, at which point you trot out a brief summary of your field of study that you’ve refined over and over again with family members. Very, very rarely, you’ll be asked to explain in detail. Cherish these moments.

Because those moments come up far too infrequently, I thought I might write a detailed explanation here. More to come in future posts.

(Yeah, this post is just to shame me into writing the other posts later.)

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