Sunday, October 12, 2008


JSH: Why modern number theorists lie

I was just re-reading one my blog posts which explain with extremely simple mathematics why the ring of algebraic integers is flawed:

And considering how simple it is to explain there is no rational debate over the question of whether or not modern theorists know that a lot of what they are doing is wrong, so why then do they lie?

My assessment is that if you understand the error and how it works then you also know that a lot of people with prestigious positions are, well, um, not very good mathematicians! So since their careers are BUILT on the error, without it, they might just be, oh, I don't know, car salesmen or something. And no one would care about their opinion on mathematics anyway.

But they are not car salesmen. They are men and women (mostly men) who have careers—like at prestigious institutions like Harvard and Oxford and Princeton—and families and a lot of energy and time invested in, mathematical ideas that do not work.

So they are holding on to what works for them.

Now I can blow apart standard teaching on the ring of algebraic integers, and do so with some trivial algebra and emphasizing that:

a*(f(x) + b) = a*f(x) + a*b

so the VALUE of f(x) is irrelevant, but when I'm facing desperate people desperate to believe they are real mathematicians then none of that matters in the face of raw human emotion.

Mathematics is, in many ways, a cruel discipline.

But to defy it, people with social status can just call me the crackpot, and that work, for a while

But around you in the world today you are seeing how bad it can get when people do the math wrong, and how far things can drop and how quickly.

I know many of you simply lack the intellectual ability to fully comprehend what you are doing, but now you have an opportunity to get some grasp of how bad it can get for you.

When the world finally figures out what has been happening it won't be a time you can just shrug it off, and say they'd have done what you did. That they would have kept teaching kids broken math ideas and that they would have stopped a major discoverer in his tracks for years with lies to hold on to some professor jobs and public funding.

It will be a time to face lifetime consequences that seemed like some distant thing just a while before that was a risk worth taking.

It's not.

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