Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Changing your mind in math

I just posted about changing your mind, and I remarked that math is immune to this because someone is right. True, in a formal sense. But then I (vaguely) remember the following evolution of responses to something new in math:

  1. Your result is wrong.
  2. Your result is right, but it is trivial.
  3. Your result is implicitly known to everyone in the field.
  4. Your result has been well known for many decades.
  5. Profs. XYZ had that idea many years ago.
  6. I had that idea many years ago.
  7. You might be on to something.
Along these lines, a reviewer of one of our papers clearly didn’t like it, but we wore them down, and they eventually relented, saying something like “Let history be the judge”. History has actually treated the paper well, but I thought that was pretty funny!

PS: I could have had this series of responses wrong–I don’t remember how it went exactly. Let me know if I got it wrong.

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