Off-topic: Mathematics

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Off-topic: Mathematics

Andrew Coppin
This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum
where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative
answers? (Apart from "go visit the nearest university", that is.)

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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Christopher Done
Possibly: http://math.stackexchange.com/

On 29 August 2011 10:34, Andrew Coppin <[hidden email]> wrote:
> This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum
> where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative answers?
> (Apart from "go visit the nearest university", that is.)
>
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe
>

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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Jack Henahan
In reply to this post by Andrew Coppin
The http://math.stackexchange.com/ for normal questions, http://mathoverflow.net/ for research level questions.

Jack Henahan
[hidden email]
==
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
-- Edsger Dijkstra
==


On Aug 29, 2011, at 4:34 AM, Andrew Coppin wrote:

> This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative answers? (Apart from "go visit the nearest university", that is.)
>
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe


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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Benedict Eastaugh
In reply to this post by Andrew Coppin
On 29 August 2011 09:34, Andrew Coppin <[hidden email]> wrote:
> This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum
> where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative answers?

Apart from math.stackexchange.com and mathoverflow.net, which people
have already mentioned, people often discuss mathematics on
#haskell-blah on Freenode.

Benedict

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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Christopher Done
There's also #math on freenode, but it's a scary wilderness.

On 29 August 2011 13:34, Benedict Eastaugh <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 29 August 2011 09:34, Andrew Coppin <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum
>> where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative answers?
>
> Apart from math.stackexchange.com and mathoverflow.net, which people
> have already mentioned, people often discuss mathematics on
> #haskell-blah on Freenode.
>
> Benedict
>
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe
>

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Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Jerzy Karczmarczuk
In reply to this post by Jack Henahan
Now, something really à côté de la plaque...
Jack Henahan terminates his useful advice addressed to A. Coppin:
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
-- Edsger Dijkstra
This citation makes me think, and since this became rare, I share it.
  • It is unsourced, repeated without discernment, and Dijkstra cannot confirm (or deny) it any more. Somehow I cannot believe he said that...
  • Dijkstra began to study physics, and a physicist would be reluctant to make such puns. Why?
    • Astronomy, and physics are not only theories of galaxies or superfluids, but also methodologies of data acquisition and data processing. Telescopes evolve with our knowledge of the visible universe, as the accelerators evolve with our knowledge of elementary particles. You have to know where to look! And how to interpret the raw, experimental data.
    • So, whether you call it Informatique, Datalogi, or whatever, it is also about computers. Do you really think that the algorithmics, the thory of parallel computation, etc., have nothing to do with concrete implementations?
  • These among you who touched just a bit of astronomy, should know what a horrendous amount of "truly astronomical" knowledge is necessary to make the telescope work! For example to synchronize it with the earth movement... 
  • This citation seems to be a savant variant of: "The Fool Looks At The Finger That Points To The Sky" case... OK, if you wish. But I had an occasion to sit near a beautiful girl  who pointed her hand and her eyes in the direction of wonderful Zodiac constellations; it was midnight in the mountains. I don't remember the details, but without being a fool, I didn't look at the stars... (Well, actually I was a fool, but it is a long story).

Jerzy Karczmarczuk
Caen, France





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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Christopher Done
Wherever its origin, it is featured in SICP which was out in 1984:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQLUPjefuWA It's a sound analogy.

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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Gwern Branwen
In reply to this post by Jerzy Karczmarczuk
On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 11:19 AM, Jerzy Karczmarczuk
<[hidden email]> wrote:
> It is unsourced, repeated without discernment, and Dijkstra cannot confirm
> (or deny) it any more. Somehow I cannot believe he said that...
> Dijkstra began to study physics, and a physicist would be reluctant to make
> such puns. Why?

Some googling takes me to the full quote:

> "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology is about microscopes, or chemistry is about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools. It is about how we use them, and what we find out when we do."

Which is referenced to, inside _Invitation to Computer Science_ (G.
Michael Schneider, Judith L. Gersting, Keith Miller;
http://books.google.com/books?id=gQK0pJONyhgC ), to "Fellows, M.R.,
and Parberry, I. "Getting Children Excited About Computer Science",
_Computing Research News_, vol. 5, no. 1 (January 1993)".

Curiously, the preface to the quote is:

> This distinction between computers and computer science is beautifully expressed by computer scientists Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry in an article in the journal _Computing Research News_:

*No* mention of Dijkstra. Searching that full book, the only Dijkstra
mentions are unconnected to the quote.

Chasing links, I head to
http://archive.cra.org/CRN/issues/by_title_by_issue.html and download
January 1993: http://archive.cra.org/CRN/issues/9301.pdf

On page 7, I find it. The article title is different: "SIGACT trying
to get children excited about CS". The money line is highlighted. The
relevant paragraph and surrounding paragraphs:

> Is it any wonder then that computer science is represented in many schools by either computer games or some antiquated approach to programming, which at worst concentrates on a litany of syntax and at best emphasizes expediency over effectiveness and efficiency? But computer science is not about computers—it is about computation.
>
> What would we like our children- the general public of the future—to learn about computer science in schools? We need to do away with the myth that computer science is about computers. Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology is about microscopes or chemistry is about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools, it is about how we use them and what we find out when we do.
>
> It may come as a surprise to some that computer science is full of activities that children still find exciting even without the use of computers. Take theoretical computer science, for example, which may seem an unlikely candidate. If computer science is underrepresented in schools, then theoretical computer science is doubly so.

This is the precise quote, with no quotation marks or references or
allusions of any kind; this seems to be the original, where the exact
quote comes from. There are no mentions whatsoever of Dijkstra in the
January PDF.

On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 11:25 AM, Christopher Done
<[hidden email]> wrote:
> Wherever its origin, it is featured in SICP which was out in 1984:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQLUPjefuWA It's a sound analogy.

Abelson doesn't cite Dijkstra in the first minute where he makes the
comparisons, either, unless I missed it.

As well, in no Google hit did I find any specific citation to
Dijkstra. Hence, I conclude that because it is insightful and sounds
like Dijkstra (eg. his submarine quote), it has become apocryphally
associated with him but is *not* actually a Dijkstra quote.

--
gwern
http://www.gwern.net

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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Jack Henahan
Better?

Jack Henahan
[hidden email]
==
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes….
-- Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry
==




On Aug 29, 2011, at 11:47 AM, Gwern Branwen wrote:

>> Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry


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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Jack Henahan
In fairness, I already knew it wasn't an actual Dijkstra quote. It's just one that gets thrown around with his name on it. The origins were misty enough that I just decided to pick the one that pop culture chose.

Jack Henahan
[hidden email]
==
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes….
-- Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry
==



On Aug 29, 2011, at 12:08 PM, Jack Henahan wrote:

> Better?
>
> Jack Henahan
> [hidden email]
> ==
> Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes….
> -- Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry
> ==
>
> <398E692F.gpg>
>
> On Aug 29, 2011, at 11:47 AM, Gwern Branwen wrote:
>
>>> Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry
>
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe

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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

aditya siram-2
In reply to this post by Jack Henahan
I'm afraid you're going to have a lot of OCD's completely miss the point of your email and annoy you with comments about the quote which you'll then have to refute.

I'd actually stick with the old comment, remove it completely, include a short summary with a link to the paper or attribute it to Abe Lincoln.

-deech

On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 11:08 AM, Jack Henahan <[hidden email]> wrote:
Better?

Jack Henahan
[hidden email]
==
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes….
-- Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry
==




On Aug 29, 2011, at 11:47 AM, Gwern Branwen wrote:

>> Michael R. Fellows and Ian Parberry


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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Gwern Branwen
On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 12:18 PM, aditya siram <[hidden email]> wrote:
> I'm afraid you're going to have a lot of OCD's completely miss the point of
> your email and annoy you with comments about the quote which you'll then
> have to refute.

I dunno, I found the quote interesting. I had typed up a scornful
response to the effect that everyone knows it's a Dijkstra quote and
he could find sourcing in seconds with Google, but as the seconds
passed, I had to rewrite the seconds bit, then as I found actual
cites, I had to rewrite the Dijkstra bit, and then I realized that
replying to that email might take a while...

--
gwern
http://www.gwern.net

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Re: Truly Really Off-topic: (Was: Mathematics)

Gwern Branwen
In reply to this post by Gwern Branwen
On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 11:47 AM, Gwern Branwen <[hidden email]> wrote:
> As well, in no Google hit did I find any specific citation to
> Dijkstra. Hence, I conclude that because it is insightful and sounds
> like Dijkstra (eg. his submarine quote), it has become apocryphally
> associated with him but is *not* actually a Dijkstra quote.

To follow up:

- 'telescopes' does not appear anywhere in the EWDs:
http://ewd.cs.utexas.edu.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=0&q=telescopes&xsubmit=Search&s=SS
- Ruud Koot points to an August* 1993 PhD thesis
(http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.53.8045&rep=rep1&type=pdf)
which attributes it, with no citation or sourcing information, to
Dijkstra
- a Redditor claims, with no citation or sourcing information, that it
was Marvin Minsky
(http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/jy1zw/psa_dijkstra_did_not_say_computer_science_is_no/c2g17xt)

* that is, well after the original January 1993 article

--
gwern
http://www.gwern.net

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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Andrew Coppin
In reply to this post by Christopher Done
On 29/08/2011 01:13 PM, Christopher Done wrote:

> There's also #math on freenode, but it's a scary wilderness.
>
> On 29 August 2011 13:34, Benedict Eastaugh<[hidden email]>  wrote:
>> On 29 August 2011 09:34, Andrew Coppin<[hidden email]>  wrote:
>>> This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum
>>> where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative answers?
>>
>> Apart from math.stackexchange.com and mathoverflow.net, which people
>> have already mentioned, people often discuss mathematics on
>> #haskell-blah on Freenode.

I know of several places where I can ask maths questions and half a
dozen people will take guesses at what the correct solution might be. I
haven't yet found anywhere where I can say "when would a chi-squared
test be more appropriate than a KS test?" and get an informed,
knowledgeable answer. (Answers from people who /know/ what they're
talking about rather than just /think/ they know.)

Anyway, from this thread I've got the names of a few places to start
looking. And that's really what I was hoping for. Thanks for the tips.

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Off-topic: Mathematics and modesty

Jerzy Karczmarczuk
Andrew Coppin :
> I haven't yet found anywhere where I can say "when would a chi-squared
> test be more appropriate than a KS test?" and get an informed,
> knowledgeable answer. (Answers from people who /know/ what they're
> talking about rather than just /think/ they know.)
>
With all my respect:
I think I know several mathematicians who learning that a person asking
for help begins with trying to distinguish  between knowledgeable, and
those who just think they are, will simply - to say it politely - refuse
to engage.
(There might be some impolite answers as well, but you don't need the
details).

Jerzy Karczmarczuk



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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics and modesty

Chris Smith-31
On Tue, 2011-08-30 at 20:58 +0200, Jerzy Karczmarczuk wrote:
> With all my respect:
> I think I know several mathematicians who learning that a person asking
> for help begins with trying to distinguish  between knowledgeable, and
> those who just think they are, will simply - to say it politely - refuse
> to engage.

I don't agree with this.  It's the most natural thing in the world to
listen to an answer and then try to figure out whether the speaker knows
what they are talking about or not.  Those who expect us to forego that
step aren't really engaged in mathematics any more.

--
Chris Smith


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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics and modesty

KC
He said "Trying to distinguish first between knowledgeable, wise,
guru, wizard, etc." before asking the actual mathematics related
question.

Beware: the expert
"X" is an unknown quantity
"spert" is a drip under pressure
:D


On Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 12:16 PM, Chris Smith <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Tue, 2011-08-30 at 20:58 +0200, Jerzy Karczmarczuk wrote:
>> With all my respect:
>> I think I know several mathematicians who learning that a person asking
>> for help begins with trying to distinguish  between knowledgeable, and
>> those who just think they are, will simply - to say it politely - refuse
>> to engage.
>
> I don't agree with this.  It's the most natural thing in the world to
> listen to an answer and then try to figure out whether the speaker knows
> what they are talking about or not.  Those who expect us to forego that
> step aren't really engaged in mathematics any more.
>
> --
> Chris Smith
>
>
> _______________________________________________
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>



--
--
Regards,
KC

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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Peter Simons
In reply to this post by Andrew Coppin
Hi Andrew,

 > I know of several places where I can ask maths questions and half a
 > dozen people will take guesses at what the correct solution might be.
 > I haven't yet found anywhere where I can say "when would a
 > chi-squared test be more appropriate than a KS test?" and get an
 > informed, knowledgeable answer. (Answers from people who /know/ what
 > they're talking about rather than just /think/ they know.)

I believe this phenomenon is quite natural and easily explained. When
you're asking a non-trivial question, hardly anyone just "knows" the
correct answer -- especially when it comes to math. In order to answer
your question, people have to dedicate time and effort to study the
problem you're asking about. (Furthermore, formulating a coherent
response is usually be a bit of an effort, too.)

Now, a person who has profound knowledge of the subject you're asking
about is not very likely to do this, because he is probably not going to
learn anything in the process. Dedicating time and effort to studying
your particular problem is not an appealing prospect. A person who has
superficial understanding of the subject, however, is more likely to be
fascinated by the problem, and consequently he is more likely to
dedicate time and effort into formulating a response.

In other words, even if Donald Knuth himself is reading the forum you're
posting to, it doesn't mean that he is actually going to respond. On the
other hand, if you're asking the right question, Donald Knuth just might
respond to it, but not necessarily in the forum that you were originally
asking in.

Take care,
Peter


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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Jerzy Karczmarczuk
Peter Simons :
> Now, a person who has profound knowledge of the subject you're asking
> about is not very likely to do this, because he is probably not going to
> learn anything in the process. Dedicating time and effort to studying
> your particular problem is not an appealing prospect.
You might be right.
You may be dead wrong... Some people like to teach, find some pleasure
in explaining things they know, and find a pleasure in trying to be
useful. But they might refuse, if they hear:
  "...if you are a real specialist and you know what you are talking
about, tell me what is better, the chi-square test or (...)".
Knuth admitted that he had learnt a lot while teaching things he already
knew. So did Feynman. And Landau.

All the best.
Jerzy K.


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Re: Off-topic: Mathematics

Alexander Solla
In reply to this post by Andrew Coppin
Use Usenet.  sci.math, sci.math.research, and sci.logic are some of the best mathematics and logic resources on the internet.

On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 1:34 AM, Andrew Coppin <[hidden email]> wrote:
This is fairly wildly off-topic but... does anybody know of a good forum where I can ask questions about mathematics and get authoritative answers? (Apart from "go visit the nearest university", that is.)

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