GEORGE DANTZIG: A HOMEWORK
“I was a mathematics graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Arriving late to class as usual, I quickly copied the two math problems from the blackboard, assuming they were the homework assignment. When I sat down to work on them that evening, I found them to be the most difficult problems my professor had ever assigned. Night after night I worked, trying first to solve one then the other with no success. But I kept at it.
“Several days later, I made a breakthrough and solved both problems. I took the homework to class the next day. The professor told me to leave it on his desk. It was piled so high with papers that I was concerned my homework would get lost in the clutter. Reluctantly, I dropped it off and went on my way.
“Six weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I was awakened by a pounding on the door. I was startled to see it was my professor. ‘George! George! he was shouting, ‘You solved them!’
” ‘Yes, of course,’ I said. ‘Wasn’t I supposed to?’ The professor explained that the two problems on the blackboard were not homework; they were two famous outstanding problems that leading mathematicians so far had not been able to solve. He could hardly believe that in only a few days I had solved them both.
“If someone had told me that they were famous unsolved problems, I probably wouldn’t have even tried to solve them. It goes to show the power of positive thinking.”
George Dantzig is a professor of Operations Research and Computer Science at Stanford University.
“Because of its tiny wings and heavy body,
aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly.
But the bumblebee doesn’t know that, so it flies anyway.”
– Mary Kay Ash