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I remember seeing the following interesting exchange recently on MathOverflow:

  • someone asked a question about something,

  • another person ($X$) answered (or commented) that the answer is such-or-such because of Foo's Famous Theorem about this-or-that,

  • another person ($Y$), working in a different field, remarked that the answer also follows from Bar's earlier result in a different domain and stated in a different language,

  • thereupon, $X$ realized that Bar's result was, in fact, equivalent to Foo's Theorem, and remarked something like “amazing! this shows that Foo's Theorem was already known to Bar decades earlier”.

I'd like to use this as an example of how different branches of mathematics can fail to know about potentially interesting results from other branches.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep a bookmark of the exchange, and I remember very little (and even what I did write might be somewhat altered by my inaccurate memory). I saw it fairly recently (maybe a few weeks ago?), but it's possible that the exchange took place earlier (I may have been browsing an old question), so it doesn't narrow it down. I also don't remember the topic (since I read a lot of questions about a lot of different subjects we can't infer much…).

Does anyone else remember seeing this?

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    $\begingroup$ If you can think of some reasonable keywords, you can find comments containing them and look at the most recent ones; see also: Searching for comments. For example, here are the comments with decades, amazing, ... $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2023 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ ... and amazing... decades. (I expect it might be difficult to guess the right keywords. But if it was only a few weeks ago, you only have to look at relatively recent comments.) $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2023 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ @SamHopkins Exactly! Thanks a lot! (And thanks also to Martin Sleziak for showing me how to search for comments.) $\endgroup$
    – Gro-Tsen
    Sep 19, 2023 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ This is easy to say now - after Sam Hopkins posted the correct answer. But I should have tried searching for comments with decade rather than decades. $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2023 at 4:25
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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting post. thank you! In particular I love "I'd like to use this as an example of how different branches of mathematics can fail to know about potentially interesting results from other branches" $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2023 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ Other examples you might consider using to illustrate the same point about not knowing about results from other fields include $r$-cover-free families, De Bruijn sequences, the Regge symmetry, and eigenvectors from eigenvalues. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2023 at 19:33

2 Answers 2

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You are thinking of the question Two-colouring the two-sphere, where a certain problem seemingly in discrete geometry was explained to be related to quantum mechanics.

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    $\begingroup$ P.S., I remembered the details of this question pretty well, and so searched for "coloring sphere quantum" using MathOverflow's built-in search feature. But I did not find the question this way. It was because I used the American "coloring" instead of the British "colouring." However, using Google and searching "mathoverflow coloring sphere quantum" gave me the question right away. The moral is Google is a better search engine for MathOverflow than MathOverflow's built-in search. $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2023 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ I would disagree with "Google is a better search engine for MathOverflow than MathOverflow's built-in search" as a blanket statement covering all possible cases. I do certainly use Google quite often. At the same time, on SE sites I often restrict the search to some combination of tags. There are certainly many various ways how to search - which of them works better might depend on the situation. (As far as searching goes, Mathematics has some advantages over MO, for several reasons.) $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2023 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak, since, I hope, chattiness on Meta is more permissible than on the main, would you be willing to say a bit about those reasons? $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Sep 21, 2023 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ @LSpice Since it is a bit of digression from the original topic and it might be a longer exchange (at least I will need a bit more space than the length of a comment), I would suggest to continue in chat. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2023 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ I do find that Google search is better than MO search for many things, but in this case, MO search would have worked better for me (if I had been tasked with finding this question). Like Sam Hopkins, I also knew at once which MO question was being referred to. I would have searched for "Kochen Specker." With MO search, I can easily ask for the newest match to "Kochen Specker," which immediately yields the desired result. Asking for the newest match isn't easy (or even possible?) with Google. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2023 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ @TimothyChow Google search offers restriction by the date, such as the past year or a specified date range. It is at least an approximation of showing the newest results - but as you can see, in this case I got no hits, so perhaps it isn't really that reliable. See also: Date criteria for Google search. $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2023 at 3:44
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I posted a comment or an answer somewhere not long ago, saying that a result published by Tom Apostol in 2000, which some have called "Apostol's method" or the like, is one that I presented in a classroom before that, having learned it from a book published in about 1960. Maybe I can find it.

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