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Fancy math, basics

John Baez' enthusiasm is infectious, and his perspective appealing:

It's sort of hilarious that Ferro was solving cubic equations before negative numbers were worked out. It should serve as a lesson: we mathematicians often work on fancy stuff before understanding the basics. Often that's why math seemss hard! But often it's impossible to discover the basics except by working on fancy stuff and getting stuck.
—John Baez, This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics, Week 261