The world of math is full of quirky characters. Two of the quirkiest are Filomena Pacella and Tobias Weth. If you have ever seen the show The Big Bang Theory, you can probably get a good idea of what I am talking about. When you think about someone that make s living by solving math problems, these two men are the stereotypical nerds you would imagine. Filomena and Tobias spend their lives looking at solutions for math problems that only a handful of people on the planet can even remotely fathom. Most people would have a better chance of reading hieroglyphics than having even an inkling of an understanding of the kinds of equations that Filomena and Tobias tackle every day of their lives.
Filomena and Tobias have always been a good team. They met when they did their undergraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They had always felt a little odd when they were growing up. Being so gifted at math, they sometimes were left with strong feelings of loneliness and awkwardness. They both always had a tough time making friends, and it was impossible for any of their friends, family, teachers or classmates to really understand the kind of world they lived in.
The world they lived in was one that was described completely by math. Filomena and Tobias saw the world through equations. Watching the motion of a baseball, basketball or football, they were never thinking of the play and its importance to their schools teams. Instead, all they could see were the math and physics equations that controlled the motion of the balls path through the air. This kind of vision controlled all aspects of their lives. Every time they saw something, Tobias and Filomena were seeing something different than everyone else saw. They were seeing behind the surface view that other people were confined to. Instead, Filomena and Tobias were watching math equations sprout out off all of the action they were confronted with in their everyday lives.
When Filomena and Tobias met each other at MIT, it was a revelation for both off them. Finally they had someone in their lives that they could share their unique visions of the world with. No longer did they have to feel misunderstood and lonely. From the moment they met, they were never apart. You could always find them huddled together somewhere on the MIT campus, talking to each other about the math that ruled their lives. They were always working on their math together, working deep into the night to try and get the math they saw with their eyes into new formulas that would change the math world.
When they reached their graduate studies (still at MIT), Filomena and Tobias released a formula that sent the math universe abuzz. They released a formula that presented symmetry of solutions to semi linear elliptic equations via Morse index. This formula proved symmetry results in solutions of semi linear equations in a ball.
This paper was vindication for them both. All of those times they had been teased in high school for thinking about math during a ballgame were now wiped away. All of that pondering off the balls motions had come to fruition in this formula. It earned them the respect of the entire math world.
Mar 13, 2010
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