14
$\begingroup$

There is a beginning of close war about that question. It has 25 votes, just got closed, but has already 3 "reopen" votes only three hours after it was closed. Only quiz has given in comments a reason to vote (he was not one of the closer): he writes "Vague and sensationalsit. I really hope this question will stay closed. To be reopened it would need at least some editing to address questions raised in commebts what exactly is asked for".

If there were unknown papers by Grothendieck on any subject around, I would be very happy to learn it. On the other hand, I agree with quid. The question is too vague. In particular I am not very happy that my asking for precisions in comment was ignored by the OP.

I'd like people who have a strong opinion about what to do to explain their position here.

$\endgroup$
  • 26
    $\begingroup$ I think it is sensationalist and akin to the crowds following Brian Cohen around crying "he has given us a sign!... he has given us a shoe!" $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi May 9 '14 at 11:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think it is better to let the question remain open for receiving any possible answers in future. Who knows who will see it and what they have to tell us? $\endgroup$ – user45939 May 9 '14 at 14:49
  • 26
    $\begingroup$ I don't really see the point of the question, and consider it a little creepy. If a mathematician wants to contribute anonymously, they should be allowed to contribute anonymously. Otherwise we should consider it okay to ask MO questions like "what is the real name of quid?" $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney May 9 '14 at 14:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Dear Joël: Didn't you forget to end the sentence starting with "On the other hand,"? $\endgroup$ – Pierre-Yves Gaillard May 9 '14 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Pierre-YvesGaillard quid posted and deleted an answer here. I think Joël's sentence is about quid's answer. $\endgroup$ – user45939 May 9 '14 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Konrad - Dear Konrad: Thanks! I still hope Joël will edit his post... $\endgroup$ – Pierre-Yves Gaillard May 9 '14 at 15:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Konrad OP was never edited. Whatever the reason it can hardly been my answer. $\endgroup$ – user9072 May 9 '14 at 16:05
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I put a historical lock on the question. As justification, I feel that most of the criteria listed here -- meta.stackexchange.com/questions/126587/… -- were met (it was in the middle of a reopen-delete war when I applied the lock). But another major consideration was the history of the OP which in my opinion has been highly problematic; I thought it would be best to freeze the controversy where it is (where it now becomes archival) and move on. We can of course still discuss this action. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble May 13 '14 at 21:16
17
$\begingroup$

Okay, let me try to articulate what I think is wrong with this question: it is very unlikely to get a satisfactory answer.

Indeed, suppose the rumor is false (which is think is more probable, but that's not important). There is still no way to disprove it, or even to argue convincingly against it. It is not falsifiable in Popper's sense. But if the rumor is true, and there are around some papers by Grothendieck under another name, then it means that Grothendieck, and anyone else in the know, at least up to this time, wants to keep them secret. It is extremely unlikely that seeing the question on MO, Grothendieck (or anyone in the know) would suddenly decide to come out and say: "Hey guys, you know, this and that paper there, they're mine". If such a decision is ever made, ii will come out of Grothendieck's own evolution and decision, or as a consequence of important event in his life (for example his death - he may have left a will asking his pseudonym to be made public after his death.

So, in any case, a satisfactory answer to this question is very unlikely. On MO, we tend to have a strong preference for questions that have a good answer, and that's why, I think, many people voted to close it and while I am inclined to do so too.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the argument why because the answer is "it is unknown" that means the question is bad. Plenty of MO questions are of the form "is this estimate in number theory known" or similar, and often the response is "that is equivalent to an open question." On the other hand, if the questioner had asked whether Noga Alon has any pseudonymous papers, that has a straightforward answer, and so I guess would be a fine question except that there is already: mathoverflow.net/questions/45185/… $\endgroup$ – Sam Hopkins May 9 '14 at 14:18
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @SamHopkins Thanks for pointing out the famous mathematician pseudonym question. Is there any sense in which the existence of that question does not make the current question redundant? $\endgroup$ – S. Carnahan May 9 '14 at 14:26
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @SamHopkins – Too bad the question is now [on hold], otherwise we could have retagged it with "Open problem"! $\endgroup$ – jmc May 9 '14 at 14:57
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I tend to agree, and had considered writing something similar myself about the non-falsifiability. The only way I could see the OP being satisfied by a (presumably disappointing?) answer of 'no' would be from someone whose authority he trusts, and who would that be, and what would the evidence be besides "argument from authority"? $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble May 9 '14 at 15:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "What would the evidence be?" There is the biography by Scharlau, see here, based on extensive interviews. Anyway, the (finally closed) question is redundant, and asked in a very unprofessional manner. $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo May 9 '14 at 17:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Indeed, Andres. I pause to wonder whether it's just an elaborate joke. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble May 9 '14 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Todd, you may want to add a comment here (not under this answer, but rather under Joël's original post, for the sake of visibility) indicating that the question is now locked, and perhaps mentioning what led you to do this. $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo May 12 '14 at 19:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AndresCaicedo: done. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble May 12 '14 at 22:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble what is "done"? I cannot find anything. $\endgroup$ – user9072 May 13 '14 at 15:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @quid: sorry, I had stupidly misread Andres's suggestion. I put a comment under Joël's question above. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble May 13 '14 at 21:19
8
$\begingroup$

Montpellier University (France) is going to paginate somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 raw sheets of paper (depending on which website you consult) written by Grothendieck after he quit the scientific community in the 90's. Apparently these seem to be mainly related to mathematics, philosophy and ecology. Unfortunately, as they were originally not meant to be published, there could be a huge amount of work to do translating them into formal mathematical language, given the genius of the guy.

I suppose it doesn't totally answer your question, but there is certainly in all of these sheets enough resources to publish a new paper from Grothendieck. Unfortunately, at the time of writing these lines, Montpellier University didn't provide any information on the way these data would be made available to public and how much time the pagination process would take. I should add that I'm not at all familiar with StackExchange publishing rules and Grothendieck work; I found this thread by trying to find resources on the guy and thought that it could be a constructive answer to your question.

As it seems at this time no popular English scientific publisher has written about this news, the only reliable source I can provide you is in French 1.

Cordially

PS: I'm sorry if my answer doesn't comply with StackExchange publishing rules. Please don't hesitate to remove it if this is the case.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

Since I just voted for reopen, I'll explain why. Everyone here knows what a pseudonymous publication is, so it isn't "vague". And writing anonymously is something that mathematicians do reasonably often, so I don't see why it is sensationalist. It is likely to never get a good answer, but that is the fate of many MO questions so I don't see that as a good reason either. Potential answers that would interest many readers here (though not me, particularly), would be an admission or denial made to a biographer by Grothendieck himself, a denial by the real author of a paper regarding a rumour that Grothendieck wrote it, or an admission that someone started the rumour with no real evidence. I detect a feeling around here that the question is somehow insensitive, but I don't see it. Would anyone here be offended if such a question was asked about them? I wouldn't.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "Would anyone here be offended if such a question was asked about them?" I think perhaps it is relevant that Grothendieck is not here, and his motives and desires are (explicitly) different from the average motives and desires of our community. $\endgroup$ – Max May 19 '14 at 10:40
-4
$\begingroup$

Once again, I notice that a potentially interesting question is closed appealing to a certain "purity" or strict adherence to some rule. I think it is quite well-known that since the late '80s Grothendieck has been producing notes on his reflections. The possibility that some of his scripts have reached a certain anonymous/pseudonymous distribution is tantalizing enough to make me think that the better is to leave the question open. I only hope that someone with lots of reputation share my view!

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I disagree. Joël among others has given a good reason for why the question has problems, and it has nothing to do with "strict adherence to some rule". (As an aside, how widespread is this rumor, anyway? It looks a little tabloid-y to me, in the manner of the defunct Weekly World News.) $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble May 9 '14 at 15:18
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ I also disagree. Also, I think the "some rule" comment is a little silly -- you can always manufacture a rule to explain any action. For example, Leo Alonso's comment could be motivated by the "celebrities are not people" rule, and so their intention to remain anonymous should not be respected. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney May 9 '14 at 15:33
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ With "some rule" I meant there are too many questions closed in this forum, but I know you were going to disagree anyway... In any case what the people is interested in, I think, is in Grothendieck's unpublished work. $\endgroup$ – Leo Alonso May 12 '14 at 8:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .