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Art of Insights: Sanjoy Mahajan, "Never calculate without already knowing the answer!"

Sanjoy Mahajan

John Wheeler, who taught Richard Feynman, advised, "Never make a calculation before you know the answer." He might also suggest learning a spelling by looking up the word in the dictionary. But without the spelling, how does one find the word? Without a calculation, how can we know the answer? With illustrations mathematical and physical, Prof Mahajan will show how we can and explain why we should. Following Wheeler's advice develops insight, what our cognitive architecture hungers for. And insight---which, unlike precise calculation, can fit inside our mind whole---is the seed of discovery and progress.

Sanjoy Mahajan is Associate Professor of Applied Science and Engineering at Olin College. He is the author of Street-Fighting Mathematics (MIT Press).

For an excellent summary of Dr Mahajan's talk, please read MIT student Yuliya Klochan's blog post or Nancy Dugerne Smith's coverage in Slice of MIT.