- To crack Fermat's Last Theorem, Andrew Wiles worked in isolation for more than six years.
- Thomas Hales produced a body of work consisting of 250 pages of notes and 3 gigabytes of computer programs to solve Kepler's Conjecture, a problem open since 1611 regarding the most efficient way to stack cannonballs.
What is it that motivates mathematicians to go to these extremes?
It seems there is something compelling, almost seductive, about their subject.
Could there be some sort of drive, similar to the sex drive?
In other words, something that we could call a "maths drive" that urges us to find new mathematical explanations and truths?
As strange as this idea sounds, it is not without precedent:
in 2000, the psychologist Alison Gopnik suggested, in full seriousness, that finding an explanation is like having an orgasm.