Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ramanujian's Deathbed Problem Cracked

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the mock-theta-soup dept.

Math 205

Jake's Mom sends word of the serendipitous solution to a decades-old mathematical mystery. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin have unraveled a major number theory puzzle left at the death of one of the twentieth century's greatest mathematicians, Srinivasa Ramanujan. From the press release: "Mathematicians have finally laid to rest the legendary mystery surrounding an elusive group of numerical expressions known as the 'mock theta functions.' Number theorists have struggled to understand the functions ever since... Ramanujan first alluded to them in a letter written [to G. H. Hardy] on his deathbed, in 1920. Now, using mathematical techniques that emerged well after Ramanujan's death, two number theorists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have pieced together an explanatory framework that for the first time illustrates what mock theta functions are, and exactly how to derive them."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Lack of information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18162962)

Article really doesn't contain much information! Anyone else give some light on this article?

How to solve a mathematical mystery (0, Offtopic)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163014)

1) Become a really clever mathematician and prove something.

2) Solve some mystifying dilema.

3) Become really, really famous.

4) Then you can jolly well tell other mathematicians what to do!

or something like that... apologies to Monty Python, et. al.

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163048)

I don't think Monty Python, et. al. cares... but, um, you could apologize to us readers. My eyes are gouged out and in the palms of my hands. How will I intellectually masturbate?

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163594)

How will I intellectually masturbate?

      Simple. Redefine the universe's parameters such that intellectual masturbation is no longer necessary, and place yourself in the appropriate set. You're a mathematician. You can do ANYTHING. Duh!

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164664)

Crap! I just placed myself in an alternative universe and now I can't get out! Help!

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (1)

martinkb (990418) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163078)

1) Become a really clever mathematician and prove something. 2) Solve some mystifying dilema. 3) Become really, really famous. 4) Then you can jolly well tell other mathematicians what to do!/blockquote 5. Profit.

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (1)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163300)

You seem to have missed a step, the infamous x)???.

This seems to be a simple case where if we solve the equation:
X=?
?="Answer"
"Answer"="Implement Joke Correctly"
Therefore, X="Implement Joke Correctly"
QED

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (1, Troll)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163214)

3) Become really, really famous.

  I propose:

    3) Become really, really famous while at the same time guaranteeing you will never ever have sex with a conscious human female.

Re:How to solve a mathematical mystery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163846)

Isn't necrophilia a syndrome of being a mathematician?

Re:Lack of information (5, Informative)

arlo5724 (172574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163058)

The mock theta functions [wikipedia.org] are special functions that describe of host of phenomena, the most interesting of which is probably its relation to modular forms. There has been a great deal of controversy as to how these functions should actually be defined in the abstract sense and for the most part any serious attempts at figuring them out have involved using nothing more than the functions that Ramanujan himself wrote down in a notebook right before he died. It will probably be some time before this "solution" appears in a final, published form so don't get your hopes up unless you have connections to number theorists close to the activity. If you are at a university you can look up scads of articles on the topic from JStor, or just browse the bounded periodicals in the library.

This is cool and all, but the real kicker will be if Peter Sarnak from Princeton proves the Riemann Hypothesis [wikipedia.org] (rumor has it he is on the way to doing so).

some of the good drs' papers (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163352)

Some of the papers being described can be found PDF on web page of Kathrin Bringmann (one of the two authors):http://www.math.wisc.edu/~bringman/ [wisc.edu] . While it doesn't include the very latest, it includes some from last year on the topic.

Re:some of the good drs' papers (1)

tiny-e (940381) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163488)

Behold: The power of cheese.

(do what you gotta' do... I couldn't resist.)

Re:some of the good drs' papers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18165114)

Stop cooking with cheese.

Re:Lack of information (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163558)

You mean there was even MORE math after "Integration by Parts"? Sheesh you guys need to get a life :P

you left math too early (4, Funny)

^Z (86325) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164156)

There are smooth operators that act on imaginary numbers right by the corner. Then it gets really kinky. Consider improper integrals, strip functions, etc.

OK (-1, Offtopic)

blantonl (784786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162974)

...AllRighty Then!

Re:OK (-1, Flamebait)

toejam316 (1000986) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162988)

Translation: WOO! FIRST POST!

Re:OK (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163338)

Both PP and GPP should be modded Funny.

Both PP and GPP being moderated Redundant
is clearly an indication of a lack of caffeine.

Good job! (5, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162980)

The summary didn't refer to Ramanujan as "the Indian math guy" [slashdot.org] this time! Great work! (Don't ask how I remember that one.)

Although, it could do with one less "i" ...

Re:Good job! (5, Funny)

Slooze (317937) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163364)

Heheh...no kidding. When I saw "Ramanujian" in the header, my first thought was, "An Armenian created a math problem?!"

Re:Good job! (5, Funny)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163396)

This does seem like good work, but realistically we won't know how important it is until it appears as a deus ex machina device on NUMB3RS.

Re:Good job! (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164050)

are you kidding? the Ramanujian they have is the co-manifestor of deus ex machina, which makes her a goddess.

Spelling error (4, Informative)

kraemate (1065878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163000)

Spell error in story title! Its Ramanujan, without the 'i'.

Re:Spelling error (5, Funny)

boingo82 (932244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163098)

But...but....with the "i" it almost anagrams to "marijuana"!

Re:Spelling error (5, Funny)

Tilzs (959354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163342)

I think you imagined the "i"

Re:Spelling error (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163520)

I think you imagined the "i"

"i" is a classic example of why you mathematicians and we programmers will NEVER get along ;)

int i;

for(i= 0; i MAX; i++){}

Re:Spelling error (5, Funny)

gsn (989808) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163714)

Ramanujan was already a complex guy.
Trying to Wick rotate him would be a pretty negative thing to do.

Re:Spelling error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164202)

Oh, fer heaven's sake!
Mod [wikipedia.org]
Parent [wikipedia.org]
Up [wikipedia.org] ,
Please! That's worth at least a +1 Funny!

Curiously enough (4, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163002)

Now, using mathematical techniques that emerged well after Ramanujan's death, two number theorists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have pieced together an explanatory framework that for the first time illustrates what mock theta functions are, and exactly how to derive them.

There's gotta be a Scientology joke in there somewhere

Re:Curiously enough (1)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163082)

I mock up my operating theta?

"Mock" Theta functions? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163146)

Let the Ritz Cracker jokes begin!

Re:Curiously enough (3, Funny)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163288)

Moderators, the Thetans are strong in this one.

Bloody lack of details... (5, Informative)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163006)

Since the article STILL doesn't define what a mock theta func is, what is, and how can it be applied?

Guess the wiki [wikipedia.org] still needs to be updated

There is (as yet) no generally accepted abstract definition of a mock theta function; Ramanujan's own definition of the term is notoriously obscure.


--
  "I want to work in Theory -- everything works in Theory!" -- John Cash, id

Re:Bloody lack of details... (1)

Dilaudid (574715) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163982)

Since the article STILL doesn't define what a mock theta func is, what is, and how can it be applied?
Yeah the journo told me he left that at home with his one-line explanation of string theory.

Re:Bloody lack of details... (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164088)

A quick search shows that mock theta functions [wolfram.com] are a special case of Jacobi theta functions [wolfram.com] which are a form of Jacobi Elliptic Functions [wolfram.com] which are a type of elliptic function [wolfram.com] . Ok, this explains next to nothing.

Arxiv doesn't appear to carry the paper, and only two papers in it relate to mock theta functions at all. One of them is a transformation formula for second-order mock theta functions [arxiv.org] and the other talks about mock theta functions as quantum invariants [arxiv.org] , whatever that means. A glance at the paper suggests that mock theta functions relate to a key element in topology, but my maths isn't nearly good enough to tell you exactly what is being described.

Ramanujan keeps getting more impressive... (3, Informative)

pyite (140350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163010)

Ramanujan was so amazing. His work on integer partitions was enough to be revolutionary, yet he hardly stopped there--all before dying at such a young age.

Re:Ramanujan keeps getting more impressive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163734)

Ramanujan was so amazing. His work on integer partitions was enough to be revolutionary, yet he hardly stopped there--all before dying at such a young age.

Thanks for sharing. Now we all know you know what integer partitions are. That was important.

Yawn! (0, Offtopic)

kraemate (1065878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163066)

After reading this news article, i just remembered that i had a vague dream about a week back. That goddess said something about these mock-theta functions, but on waking up the vision was gone. Sigh.

Outsource Math?? (-1, Troll)

kasgoku (988652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163070)

Seems like a great guy. Maybe we should start outsourcing mathematics.

Re:Outsource Math?? (1)

PigIronBob (885337) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163226)

I did not know uou guys developed it in the first place? you live and learn

Re:Outsource Math?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163290)

Whoa, assuming "we" refers to the United States, I sure hope that was a joke.

Re:Outsource Math?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163334)

Yeah. What comes around goes around. Now, if we could just find an American who knows where India is...

Or, how about this:

What do you mean, outsourcing? The Indians are right here. Although, I have to admit I have reservations about such a plan.

Re:Outsource Math?? (3, Funny)

fcolari (699389) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163592)

Silly, it's between Illinois and Ohio.

Wow, I sure Misread that Title... (-1, Redundant)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163096)

Between the title and the mock-theta-soup department, I though the late, great creator of Ramen noodles had left us a noodle scratcher!

I think I need to get to bed...

Re:Wow, I sure Misread that Title... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163494)

no.

ken ono (0, Offtopic)

notgm (1069012) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163104)

i'm pretty sure i had ken ono as a professor at the U of I in '95. He's a crafty man with long hair. i hated that class.

Ramanujan (5, Insightful)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163118)

From what I've read about Ramanujan, what I still can't understand is how a guy from a poor background with little to no formal schooling is able to just sit around and write in a notebook and come up with the equations he did. I just have to wonder what it was in nature that made him so more adapted to mathematics than the rest of us mere mortal humans. This guy was on a completely different level. Mozart comes to mind when I think of him.

Have you hugged a mathematician today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163228)

"I just have to wonder what it was in nature that made him so more adapted to mathematics than the rest of us mere mortal humans. This guy was on a completely different level."

Information may want to be free, but first someone has to think it up. Ideas may be universal but there aren't many Ramanujans out there to show us were they are.

Re:Ramanujan (4, Interesting)

teetam (584150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163326)

He was poor and from a poor country, but he did go to school and learn math there. He just happened to be fascinated by it and continued to work on it, neglecting everything else. He obviously also had a knack for math. That has nothing to do with poor or rich.

Math, being theoritical, does not require a lot of external resources (like laboratories etc.)

Re:Ramanujan (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163490)

Not quite.
He did not have advanced learning in math.
even though he went to school, in the end he was so enamored with maths that he stopped studying everything else, which cost him high. He was unable to get through to college. Thus, his knowledge was limited and was from primarily two books he found in the library.

Hardy once even mentioned that his greatest regret was that Ramanujan did not have the higher learning that would have avoided him rediscovering many - many theories. On one count, 1/3 of his discoveries were re-discoveries

Re:Ramanujan (4, Insightful)

MrBoombasticfantasti (593721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163962)

Still, that means that 2/3 of his discoveries are new and original!

Might it be that education structures the mind to follow the known paths? Perhaps by not knowing the 'usual' solutions, you can come up with a more elegant and deep solution?

Re:Ramanujan (4, Informative)

ezzthetic (976321) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163524)

He won prizes at school for his maths prowess, and went to university on a scholarship. He lost the scholarhip due to his obsessive inability to do other aspects of the curiculum that were not maths related, or which were offensive to his Brahman beliefs. There was never any doubt that he was mathematically gifted, and his mother promoted him intensively. There seems to be a myth that he was an illiterate peasant who happened to stumble on a maths book came from, but I don't know where it came from.

Re:Ramanujan (2, Informative)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163624)

There seems to be a myth that he was an illiterate peasant who happened to stumble on a maths book came from, but I don't know where it came from.

Ramanujan is mentioned in the movie Good Will Hunting [wikipedia.org] and that is how he is presented. That's the first time I heard of him. I'm sure people just use that myth because it's not too far from the truth and makes a much better story.

Re:Ramanujan (2, Informative)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163938)

Quoted from Hardy "So the real tragedy of Ramanujan was not his early death at the age of 32, but that in his most formative years, he did not receive proper training, and so a significant part of his work was rediscovery..."

And yes there were instances during his life when he struggled for money, even to eat.

I'm not saying rich or poor makes you smart. I'm saying being poor tends to keep you from being discovered by the rest of us. The immense contributions of Ramanujan could have been lost to us all if Hardy had not taken the chance to bring a total unknown to Cambridge.

Re:Ramanujan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163498)

Maybe he was a great professor in his previous life? Mozart believed he was a musician in his past lives . . .

Re:Ramanujan (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163500)

Mozart comes to mind when I think of him.

How? Mozart was very privileged. When his father saw a little musical talent in him, he threw plenty of resources to develop that talent including "instruction in clavier, violin, and organ." Wiki-link. [wikipedia.org] This was all at the age of 3 mind you, one has to take into consideration the amount that you can condition a human being to excel in a certain area if you train them from such an early age.

Re:Ramanujan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164092)

How? Mozart was very privileged. When his father saw a little musical talent in him, he threw plenty of resources to develop that talent including "instruction in clavier, violin, and organ." Wiki-link. [wikipedia.org] This was all at the age of 3 mind you, one has to take into consideration the amount that you can condition a human being to excel in a certain area if you train them from such an early age.
Exactly. Mozart was nothing special. Oh, wait. I guess that doesn't explain why he has no parallel, despite millions and millions of similarly priveleged children with overly ambitious parents who push them. On second though, you are an idiot.

Re:Ramanujan (4, Insightful)

OldManAndTheC++ (723450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163732)

It's sad to think that geniuses may languish among the world's millions of underprivileged children who lack access to education. When you think of the potential impact of a single person of the caliber of Mozart, Ramanujan, etc., our civilization could be missing out on some truly wonderful things.

Re:Ramanujan (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163746)

I just have to wonder what it was in nature that made him so more adapted to mathematics than the rest of us mere mortal humans
A little bit of talent, a lot of desire.

Re:Ramanujan (1)

malkir (1031750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163764)

Maybe he didn't just discover these super nifty equations, maybe what has been overlooked is the massive amounts of shrooms he ate before writing them! Still, this guy kicks ass.

Re:Ramanujan (3, Informative)

The Cydonian (603441) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164848)

Ramanujan's family was NOT poor. His father was among the first rung of urban middle-class professionals, who've just moved from their villages as (colonial) India's cities started expanding, finding employment as a minor clerk somewhere. His mother was very educated, and often sang in the local temple, thus earning some petty, but useful, cash in the process.

They weren't well-off, but they weren't poor either. Ramanujan had no absolutely pressure whatsoever to find an actual job while he was sitting in the verandah of his Sarangapani Street house, and writing his fantastical proofs in that mystical notebook of his. (In fact, he got married while he was jobless, a prospect that is unimaginable even in still-arranged-marriage-friendly contemporary India).

Real World Uses? (1)

Bonker (243350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163212)

Both TFA and wiki mention that these functions keep cropping up in real world problems from chemistry and physics.

So... uh, which ones?

See, this is why I switched majors from physics. Any time I look at an infinite series, my head starts to hurt.

Re:Real World Uses? (4, Informative)

arlo5724 (172574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163322)

To answer this very loosely, parts of these functions are bounded by geodesics with cusps at the corners, and this means that any geodesic structure of this type (certain types of chemical structures and a slew of phenomena in relativistic physics) can be partly described by those pieces of these functions and that it is possible that these functions represent a certain type of generalization for these structures, allowing scientists to better describe some existing structures with similar modular forms and even some that exist only in thought.

Ken Ono's seminar (5, Informative)

alpha_foobar (820088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163250)

It appears that Ken is holding a seminar at UW on March 29 2007 (http://math.uwyo.edu/DEPTCOLLOQ.asp#Mar%2029). We will probably have to wait until then for any details.

Deathbed problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163258)

Surely his death-bed problem was that he was dying?

What a coincidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163402)

What a coincidence, I just figured out Fermat's last theorem, but this text box is too narrow to contain it.

Clarification please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163444)

WTF are they talking about?

Say What.....? (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163526)

The only problem I've ever heard about people having on their deathbeds is that they are dying.

Re:Say What.....? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164104)

But if you crack that problem then you'd be immortal.

the man who knew infinity (4, Informative)

phreakv6 (760152) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163538)

not totally offtopic but i would like to recommend this amazing book [amazon.com] (the man who knew infinity) to anyone interested in reading his biography. its one of the best biographies i've ever read.

/movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164796)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0787524/ [imdb.com]

hmmm
here's hoping they don't screw it up

Re:the man who knew infinity (1)

The Cydonian (603441) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164864)

Ramanujan is the only person I've ever considered as an idol. That book is the reason. I've been to countless places after I first read the book; I still carry my dog-ear-ed copy wherever I go.

In fact, I think I'll re-re-read it again tonight; always good to look back on your heroes' stories and see where you are since you first read about them. (Not far away, I'm afraid, in my case).

Disappointing (5, Insightful)

grimdawg (954902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163570)

As a young mathematician-in-training (just finished my undergrad degree), it disappoints me to see the kind of coverage the maths community gets.

It takes a near-century-old problem to be solved to pop a maths story on slashdot - and TFA holds no details. To get on any kind of mainstream news, the Poincare conjecture needs to be solved, and then we get "Perelman proved a rabbit was a sphere".

Mathematics at universities worldwide is being dumbed down for the pursuit of the cashed-up Engineering student. Mathematicians get no kind of acclaim for their work - even compared to other 'unglamourous' pursuits. People these days don't seem to appreciate the debt they owe to mathematics.

What's it going to take for mathematicians to get some mainstream coverage? A sex scandal?

Re:Disappointing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163634)

Nonsense! As a working pure mathematician I'm grateful everyday that I get paid to do this. I'm continously amazed that I receive funding to work on problems that are highly unlikely to have any useful application. Suckers!

Re:Disappointing (4, Funny)

Nicky G (859089) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163708)

Sex scandal? Uh, yeah... don't hold your breath.

Re:Disappointing (1)

bryan986 (833912) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163944)

I'm not a mathematician, but I think I can prove that won't ever happen.

Re:Disappointing (4, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164018)

It would have to be imaginary, or complex. But that's a bit of a tangent from the point. The TFA is obtuse, cos() it doesn't exp()lain anything much. It would seem that the Slashdot crowd are caught on it Hooke, line and sinker, though. Of course, any maths problem is as easy as Pi, if you use sufficiently advanced techniques. However, if the problem cannot be differentiated meaningfully, can it be integral?

Re:Disappointing (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164190)

Haha, I wish I hadn't just wasted my mod points rating other comments funny :)

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164798)

Haha, I wish I hadn't just wasted my mod points rating other comments funny

Yes, because that "nerds have no sex" joke never gets old, even after a thousand tellings.

Ease of understanding & teaching. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164084)

Ease of understanding & teaching.

I really think the reason why a lot of people are bewildered with math (& thus ignore it) is that they were never really able to approach it properly. Mathematics has a tendency in university to not explain itself properly. Things that I found rather simple in the end were just never explained clearly, were incomplete explanations, assumed you knew & understood concepts from other, unrelated courses, or were given "pseudo-explinations" that kind-of explained something but not properly, giving potential incorrect understandings that could be disastrous later (think high school math).

The entire cutter mentality that math classes can tend to be in university don't help much either (what is probably the #1 reason why people drop their hard science/engineering/comp sci courses?? Probably MATH!)

Once I figured whatever a concept really meant in math, I realized reading the textbook after the fact (sometimes several courses later) they use terms and concepts that aren't explained at all or they use really obtuse english sentences while simply defined symbolic language could easily show the concept. Actually most of it I found rather simple & clear in the end once I got to understand it but found that the textbook just explained it, badly or with huge gaps in their explinations.

Re:Ease of understanding & teaching. (4, Insightful)

muecksteiner (102093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164714)

You have a very good point about math generally not being taught as well as it could be.

Not in the sense that the curricula should be dumbed down in any way - this would not work out well in the long run.

But there definitely is a streak of the beloved "if it was hard to code, it should be hard to understand" mentality to be found in mathematics.

Introductory math courses at universities usually do not have concepts of such bewildering complexity on the curriculum, that they should be considered to be as "hard" as they turn out to be for everyone.

However, they still are the bane of undergrads everywhere, and sometimes I wonder if the obtuseness of these courses is not just an in-joke perpetrated by the mathematicians.

If you are not smart enough to "get it" in the arcane way the stuff is being presented, you woul not hack it further down the road anyway - at least not in pure math, and they are not inclined to have pity on anyone who could not have gone down that road in the first place.

Or so the reasoning might go, when mathematicians are amongst themselves... :-)

Note that the remarks in this posting mostly apply to the teaching of the kind of "working math" that an engineer might use, which (to put it mildly) can still be pretty involved in terms of complexity, but always has a goal-oriented quality to it that pure math does not necessarily share. This residual "grounding in reality" usually makes the teaching of even advanced concepts much easier - a potential bonus that (at least in my opinion) is not used nearly as often as it could be.

A.

Re:Disappointing (1)

arktemplar (1060050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164152)

ermm.. dont mean to flamebait or anything but mathematics started out as nothing more than a tool using which you can understand the physical world better, of course over the years it has grown to be a subject in its own right but at the moment unfortunately it doesnt have any greater importance to the mainstream public than as a plot device in Numb3r's (I think some one already made a joke on that). Mathematics (the number theory kind) unfortunately is very abstract at levels and doesnt SEEM to produce any physical result for the public to find it all glamorous (unlike say --- ??? nuclear fusion research ? )

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164186)

A rabbit is not a sphere as it has two holes that are connected. If anything, it's a donut.

Re:Disappointing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164214)

What's it going to take for mathematicians to get some mainstream coverage? A sex scandal?


Sure! Jake's Mom submitted this story. I bet she's hot. I say go for it!

Re:Disappointing (1)

wathiant (968373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164250)

"Perelman proved a rabbit was a sphere"
Technically, since the intestinal tract runs from mouth to ass in one go, a rabbit should be considered a torus. In most people what comes out of their mouths and out of their asses is much the same, which would lead to a Möbius strip. Yet most of these people try to make themselves more like a donut by using the ancient method of 'you are what you eat'.

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164424)

It is too friggen technical for the mainstream. What would showing the mainstream something like the diffusion equation accomplish? Solving these problems, do not directly help out the mainstream population. If you came up with a closed form solution to the Navier-Stokes equations would Joe Blow give a shit? No... not directly at least. Now if your solutions started to change the shape of commerical airplanes, which in turn caused a reduction in the amount of fuel being used, which lowered ticket prices... then a lot of people would care. Do you see my point? Your elegant solution means nothing unless it is applied (to the general population).

Don't act all high and mighty either, you know there is math that has to be dumbed down for you (Clifford Algebra perhaps?).

Re:Disappointing (1)

Kopretinka (97408) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164648)

What's it going to take for mathematicians to get some mainstream coverage? A sex scandal?
If you guys ever applied your results, and didn't leave that to the physicists, computer scientists, economists etc., you might get some recognition. Heck, give me a good usable logics framework, I'll apply it to the Semantic Web and I'll mention your name in every interview when I'm famous for making SemWeb work.

Re:Disappointing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164722)

You see what kind of puns you guys make when you finally get some coverage? We're not letting you have a story again until 2008.

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18165118)

why do you want your subject to be on slashdot?
it's not a math but a computer board.

Ramanujan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163590)

as opposed to Ramanujav, the indian mathematician who was killed in each and every one of his reincarnated lives by one Arthrur Dent

Re: Ramanujian's Deathbed Problem Cracked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164040)

Ramanujian's Deathbed Problem Cracked
Oh thank God, this means we can finally bury him now!

The stench has just been unbearable all these years...

yo0 Fail =It?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18164130)

fuc4ing percent of

Mock theta functions? (1)

Nephrite (82592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164200)

I'm terribly sorry to be ignorant of what those are, but could somebody please give some links and references? The article itself say nothing at all. Bad article.

Credibility? (0)

p3ns4 (750333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164258)

Last time I checked, the PNAS was a non-referreed publication, which in turn questions the credibility of the results for me

Re:Credibility? (2, Informative)

widdowquinn (1069104) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164562)

I have no idea when you checked, but PNAS offers a number of tracks for submission, all of which are refereed (though cynics might think that some are refereed more stringently than others). The information is displayed for all to see at their information for authors [pnas.org] page.

Mock functions... (3, Funny)

sankyuu (847178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164344)

Wisconsin-Madison have pieced together an explanatory framework that for the first time illustrates what mock theta functions are, and exactly how to derive them.

I resent that mockery, you insensitive... oh, I thought you said deride.

Re:Mock functions... (1)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18164852)

I resent that mockery, you insensitive... oh, I thought you said deride.

Thet a good joke...
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?