As I mentioned in my first post, I am very busy at the moment, so my rate of posting will soon go right down, probably until about February. However, I wanted to have at least one post that had mathematical content (as opposed to remarks about the presentation of mathematics) since I hope that in the end that will be the main focus of the blog. So the post about cubics is supposed to be more representative of what this blog is about. Thanks to all who have contributed so far. Although I had read about the power of blogs it nevertheless came as a surprise to see from the stats how many more visits a blog gets than a homepage, and also to discover how easy it is to get useful advice. I’ve even had a serious offer of technical help with setting up new wiki-style websites, so there’s a good chance that some of those ideas will actually be realized.

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September 15, 2007 at 6:33 pm |

Blogs get more hits because there’s the promise of *new* content. A traditional homepage is static.

September 16, 2007 at 2:58 am |

Exactly. I’ve seen Louis Kauffman’s homepage at UIC, and I have no need to ever look at it again for a long while because it’s not going to change. So I only count as one hit there. But every time I check in at the Secret Blogging Seminar they get a whole new hit.

September 16, 2007 at 9:39 am |

I enjoyed your zetafunction.ps article which I found via this blog, but I wonder what percentage of people hesitate to download items – ie. if it appeared directly in the blog they would get hooked at the first paragraph and read on.

Theres a psychological barrier that stepping out of the web has for many people, I think, that separates ‘fun’ from, say, ‘serious investigation’.

Theres a practical hassle of clicking on a .ps file, or even a pdf. Thankfully Ubuntu Linux just loads up a postscript viewer, so it happens easily, but on Windows you’d have to install ghostview – thats most proto-mathematicians.

Thankfully wordpress supports Latex rendered as images already, and browsers are improving support for MathML. We cant be too far away from having latex papers rendered as web pages directly [ and click a link and request as PDF] on sites such as ArXiv.

So I think the value of moving papers out of journals and onto the web [largely freely] increases accessibility by orders of magnitude, and is a survival model for Math.

Thankyou, thankyou!

September 16, 2007 at 6:33 pm |

My home page used to be reasonably dynamic, but has stagnated over the last four years or so, owing to the pressure of other commitments. So your explanation is quite convincing. Even though one might think it shouldn’t make any difference, I’m thinking of transferring some of the discussions on that page to the blog format. It ought not to be too much work and it would be good to tidy some of them up a bit and get some feedback (and then, no doubt, tidy them up a bit more). Most of them, incidentally, are in html, for exactly the reason you give. The one on the zeta function was too complicated to write in html but would be OK in WordPress-supported LaTeX.

September 16, 2007 at 9:49 pm |

HI TIM,

MY QUERY/SUGGESTION IS WHETHER THERE CAN BE A SMALL SECTION WHERE GENERAL MATHS RELATED TOPICS CAN BE STARTED AND DISCUSSED?

(ESSENTIALLY LIKE A FORUM..)

I ALSO HAVE A QUERY ABOUT THE ‘WHAT IS GEOMETRY?’ ARTICLE ON YOUR HOME PAGE. WHERE WOULD IT BE APPROPRIATE TO POST THIS QUERY? I SUPPOSE ONCE YOU HAVE TRANSFERRED THE DISCUSSIONS TO THIS BLOG THEN THAT WOULD BE THE IDEAL PLACE?

THANKS,

JOHN SMITH

September 17, 2007 at 12:38 am |

Can you give an example of a topic of the kind you are talking about? Do you mean topics initiated by me, or do you mean topics initiated by people making comments? I’m not sure what to do about your second question. Perhaps I’ll write a short post telling people about the Discussions of Miscellaneous Mathematical Topics on my web page, which would then be a natural place for queries of the kind you have.

September 17, 2007 at 8:10 am |

Can I make a request, really to everyone who has a wordpress blog? Can you please turn off the snap shots previews? They’re useless, waste processor time and get in the way when moving the mouse around the page. Basically pure evil when you get right down to it.

Thanx,

Aaron

September 17, 2007 at 3:21 pm |

One example is Euclidean geometry. It bothers me not so much that we can start with undefined notions of points and lines, but that we then build up a number of theorems, which are logically deduced from the axioms.

eg. pythagorases theorem. It bothers me that in order to prove pythagorases theorem, you basically either ‘see’ it or you ‘don’t’. So my question would be what does it exactly mean to prove pythagorases theorem?

The topics could be initiated by you, or a select number of topics put forward by people making comments, could be put up on this blog to be discussed further?

September 17, 2007 at 3:35 pm |

I’ll think about that. But meanwhile I recommend this discussion if you want a good idea of what it means to prove Pythagoras’s theorem.

September 17, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

Hi Prof. Gowers,

While we are on the issue of topic requests, I was reading “The two cultures of mathematics” again last night (many thanks to Prof Tao for using this as an example of how to do html and thus bringing my attention to it.) In reading the article, I was strongly wishing that I could discuss this article with you or perhaps that you would have a blog posting on this topic of the two cultures.

The parts that interested me most were your discussions of the loose organizing principles of combinatorics. I was also thinking that for your paper, you were mostly concentrated on the two cultures with regards to doing mathematics. I was wondering what you would say on these cultures from the perspective of learning mathematics. In other words, is it more efficient for a student to be more oriented to a theory-builder or a problem solver mentality?

September 17, 2007 at 5:03 pm |

Kay:

I think it depends on the student’s mentality what will be more

efficient for her/him. Some will immediately fall in love with

theory-building and don’t care about problem solving, and

vice versa. To be truly successful in anything, you have to like

what you do.

September 18, 2007 at 8:45 pm |

Just to add to the request pile, perhaps you could tackle the Steinitz exchange lemma vs. Gaussian elimination thing once and for all? If your thoughts are still vague, perhaps the vague thoughts will sprout enough comments in the blog format that they can become solid.

September 19, 2007 at 2:27 pm |

There are some interesting requests there — interesting in the sense that I may well act on some of them (when I get the time). Much less importantly, but to forestall the request should it be in danger of being made, I plan to use the more… facility soon, so that the front page of the blog isn’t quite so long. But I’ll wait until the most recent post has been there for a day or two.

October 3, 2007 at 11:57 am |

[...] exchange lemma and Gaussian elimination Thanks to this comment, I have finally decided to try to understand in what sense Gaussian elimination and the Steinitz [...]