Algebra vs. Analysis: How do you eat your corn on the cob?


There's an interesting discussion about relating your mathematical field of study to the way you eat corn on the cob. This sounds ridiculous, but if you look closer, it's actually very interesting. Here's the hypothesis: the algebraists will eat their corn in rows, whereas analysts go in spirals.

Of course, this isn't a theorem because we have no way to prove this. It's also non-trivial to partition the set of mathematicians by the "algebra" or "analysis" equivalence classes (what of the mathematician that studies algebraic topology?). However, for some reason, this rule seems to hold in most cases. Regarding the mathematicians I talked to in real life, the one who wrote his PhD on Graph Theory eats his corn in rows, whereas the one who does research in Measure Theory eats his corn in spirals.

Personally, I liked my Algebra courses much more than my Analysis ones— I found them much more enlightening, intuitive, and interesting. People rave about the beauty of Analysis proofs, but I just saw them as confusing (perhaps this is due to the fact that Real Analysis was my first proof based course). The strange "theorem" about corn on the cob didn't really click with me until it became personal: after some experimentation, it turns out I eat my corn in rows.

There isn't going to be a definitive answer as to why this happens, but we can guess. Here's my proposition: Algebra is all about analyzing structure, which is why algebraists will see the perfectly laid out rows and follow them. Analysis is about finding patterns, which is why analysts will seek out the spiral patterns and follow those instead.