Genius at Play

"The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway" — apt subtitle of Siobhan Roberts' portrait Genius at Play. Also apt: the thickness and chaos of the book. Conway (born 1937, still living) was not just a mathematician; he was a polymath, especially in areas involving playful patterns. Not always a nice person, with character flaws hinted at and sometimes exposed by his biographer. Unfaithful to his wives, unreliable to his colleagues, untruthful to his listeners. Full of semi-honest stories, by turns supremely seductive and self-deprecating. Dickensian (cf Harold Skimpole) in irresponsibility about financial matters. Extraordinarily lazy and creative. Pulled countless all-nighters, sometimes productively. Both brilliant and sporadic in his research, suicidal and surreal in his personality. Possibly correct in his proverb, "The day can be saved with 45 minutes of work!" And definitely deeply meta!

(cf Dead Beginnings (2002-09-28), Mind Children (2003-04-17), Pyramid Building (2004-01-21), Perpetual Calendar (2006-01-25), ...) - ^z - 2018-11-04