Becoming a Physicist
Question: What drew you to math at a young age
Gates: My first fascination with math, I have this first conscious memory of sort of thinking about it, goes back to when I was age eight. Mathematics in our family is something we kind of like. My grandfather could neither read nor write, but he could do simple arithmetic. My dad never graduated from high school, but during the period when he was trying to get an equivalency exam he studied mathematics. So I remember watching him learning trigonometry and algebra. And, you know, that’s kind of unusual to watch your dad learn mathematics. And then I always did well in school in mathematical subjects also. So it’s kind of the family bug. My kids like mathematics, interestingly enough. So we’re just like- you know, we’re fond of it. But this conscious memory that you ask about goes to a specific event. When I was about nine years old, dad had bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. I was paging through one day and I found this thing that was clearly mathematics because it had equal signs in it, it had plus signs in it, but the rest of it, as the saying goes, was Greek to me. It was literally Greek symbols. And the equation that I saw was one of the most important equations for understanding the world of the very small; it’s called a Schrodinger equation. And for me, this thing felt like walking along a beach, seeing a very beautiful and shiny shell, looking at it, and saying gee, I wonder what made this. And so that’s the reaction I had to it.
Question: What is the Schrödinger equation?
Gates: Well, a lot of people have heard about quantum theory, this sort of spooky behavior that goes on when you look at parts of our universe that are extremely small like atoms. So you need to have a precise understanding of how these tiny objects work. And the way that science does this is we have found that there’s only one human language that is accurately constructed enough so that we can describe nature and that language turns out to be mathematics. So when we write our equations, we’re actually trying to describe something. So the Schrodinger equation is the first equation that describes the quantum weirdness that electrons and atoms demonstrate and which allow us to build things like cell phones.
Gates traces his early childhood roots as a lover of science and math.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.
- Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
- The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
- Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.
- In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
- This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
- Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.