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Stephen Wolfram is one of the very few persons I'm interested in. Stephen was what you'd call a wunderkind, and consequently got his PhD in theoretical physics from Caltech at the age of 20. But he's not only a singularly gifted scientist, but also a clever business man. He left Caltech, for example, when he realized that his work on a computer algebra system would be owned not by him, but the institute. Four years later, he founded Wolfram Research, released Mathematica a year after, and became a multimillionaire this way.

I've started to use Mathematica in 1993, five years after its initial release. I still remember my feelings when I used it first. I was enchanted, entranced, couldn't believe what I saw on the screen of my toy-like Macintosh II. A software solving differential equations in seconds for which I'd have needed days! That opened up possibilities of which I'd never dared to dream before. From that point on, I couldn't stop to examine physical problems with Mathematica, and my enthusiasm soon led to a first publication. Twenty years later, Mathematica is the only commercial software which I'm continuing to use...and insist of using, in fact.

Last friday on #pdes, haui drew my attention to the latest entry in Stephen Wolfram's blog, entitled "the personal analytics of my life". Stephen is commenting on the statistics shown in this entry at length, but for me the following facts allow an additional conclusion.

  • Stephen writes 70 mails a day on average (and receives about 300). Since he averages only 12000 keystrokes per day, the mails are just about all he writes.

  • He typically attends 10 meetings per day, most of them on the phone. For this reason, he's about 6 hours per day on the phone. He has a 40% chance to be on the phone between 9 and 12 pm.

  • His daily exercise is done partly during his daily dinner break: "[...] with the correct ergonomic arrangement one can type and use a mouse just fine while walking on a treadmill, at least up to—for me—a speed of about 2.5 mph."

For me, these points constitute the essence of a perfectly nightmarish life. Who on earth likes to be on the fucking phone the entire day? And these tricks to be online while being on a treadmill during your dinner break, do you think that's smart? It's pathetic!

Somehow, I can't help but to feel great pity for the rich and famous Dr. Wolfram. I hope he doesn't regret his insatiable appetite for being the guy who runs the show when he's old and sick and his 4 kids are out of the house. I'd recommend to look at Donald Knuth's decision and to learn from it.

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