96

After some internal discussion, the moderators have agreed to post the following text.
There are calls from the community to enunciate a firm and consistent policy for what questions are permissible or not regarding Atiyah's attempted proof of RH.
If for a moment we blind ourselves to the name on the paper, the natural and appropriate reaction would be to ...

50

I believe it is impossible in general to distinguish questions asked by a graduate student and those asked by a mathematician in a domain in which they are not specialist. Since the latter are allowed on MathOverflow, it would make little sense to disallow the former or relegate them elsewhither. It is hard to argue that MathOverflow receives too many ...

33

I will take a different viewpoint than some and say that the correctness of the proof can be discussed, and maybe it should. But as to how, that's a question of tactfulness and precision.
When discussing this proof, it's incredibly important to avoid ad-hominem attacks, benevolent and malicious ones alike. Many people say stuff like "Atiyah has output a lot ...

31

I am against making "questions on math education no longer on-topic here".
There are some excellent education related questions on this site. We may specify that
education questions on MO should be related to graduate level (research) education.
Graduate-level education is done by professional mathematicians not by professional teachers, and it is natural to ...

31

A scientific paper is like a politician --- much of its reputation is based on hearsay, and superficial impression, not on cold analytic examination. Very few have willingness and time to investigate thoroughly. Thus, a baseless accusation can easily ruin a reputation. So, it is important to make accusations as precise as possible.
If the OP read the paper ...

31

It seems that the moderators' opinions are not unified on this question, so I will offer my view wearing my private citizen hat.
The question asks how various parameters of an apparent black hole collision were extracted from LIGO data. If we made a Venn diagram that let us sort questions by subject, I think this question would fall squarely in the "...

31

The approach which seems to be throwing every conjecture conceivable on the wall and see 'what sticks' should be discouraged, IMHO.
There is also a difference between conjectures and conjectures. I think that conjectures falling under at least one of the following categories should be allowed. The conjecture
feels like they have been studied before, and ...

30

The thread http://mathoverflow.tqft.net/discussion/973/where-is-the-hole-in-my-proof/ -- and related discussions linked to from that thread -- are sort of relevant to precedents and consensus-forming regarding these sorts of questions.
Basically there was a fair bit of agreement that asking for evaluations of preprints was off-base; published papers are ...

29

May other professional researchers ask questions at MO?
Yes, they can, and they do.
However, questions have to be stated clearly and in a way which is understandable to mathematicians. Keep in mind that the audience of the site are mathematicians.
It is mainly the job of the person asking the question
to state the question clearly and rigorously in the ...

27

I am definitely doing applied math and here my two cents: In applications of mathematics one has to face a lot of questions and issues that are not really mathematical like modeling of real world phenomena, tuning parameters in models or algorithms, software engineering or issues of implementation. Of course there are mathematical theories involved in all ...

27

I'd say that this is a bit of a grey area. If you want to ask a question of this type then you should prepare it carefully: do your best to isolate the specific point that you are confused about, explain it carefully, make sure that you understand the definitions of all the ingredients, and so on. If you cannot isolate a specific point of confusion, then ...

26

One approach is to find a different stakeholder: see who cites the paper and uses the result. Then ask them if they are interested in your counterexample. If they are responsive, they may give you some help, either in showing you are right (your counterexample works and a rough indication where the original proof breaks) or in showing you are wrong (the ...

25

That sentence is not meant to describe a rule of the site, but rather the purpose of the site. Thus questions from non-professionals which further this purpose (being a great Q&A website for professional mathematicians) are very much welcome.

25

This meta question is phrased as a general question about the appropriateness of discussing published papers on MO. That's a fair question, but I think that it's actually quite a different question from the question of whether Misha Verbitsky's question was appropriate.
The paper by Gabor Etesi has a history. Namely, Verbitsky read an earlier version of ...

24

The official help page at https://mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic says
MathOverflow's primary goal is for users to ask and answer research
level math questions, the sorts of questions you come across when
you're writing or reading articles or graduate level books.
To me, that seems to say clearly that a beginning graduate student reading a GTM can ...

answered Aug 27 '15 at 17:36

Neil Strickland

42.1k22 gold badges1717 silver badges2222 bronze badges

24

I don't think there's any good solutions here, but I am going to suggest what I think is the least bad solution, and people can vote on whether it is a good idea or not. There are going to be lots of well-meaning people who want to give Atiyah the benefit of the doubt and are going to ask questions about the proof, so I think leaving it unaddressed on the ...

23

I think well-formulated history questions, especially in connection with current research, were always on-topic and should be. Speaking from personal experience, I also had one, and it was well received. There is a long list of excellent historical questions on MO. I think it is more a good question-bad question problem, than a historical one.

23

I propose to ask it as follows: In my view such a question written clearly is suitable for MO.
A question about X's paper on Y
The main theorem of X's paper on Y is
"quote (precisely) and if necessary explain the terms"
I have found the following apparent counterexample which goes as follows:
"explain clearly"
Is this indeed a counterexample or did I ...

22

First, let me state that the downvotes on these examples are hard to justify and the following is not a criticism of these questions.
That said, "what is known about" is a common premise for a "fishing expedition" (to borrow a legal term). These questions should be discouraged since the only correct answer is an encyclopedic one, which imposes unnecessary ...

answered Nov 20 '13 at 6:11

20

In my opinion, math education research questions are mostly off topic. Although they're important questions, our userbase doesn't have many math education researchers, and as a result most questions about math ed research would result in speculation and argument rather than precise expert answers.

20

I would very much like to keep questions about graduate level courses here at MO. There is a lot of knowledge of how to present various topics which isn't available in books and is only known to a few experts in the field, and I don't think those questions would get answered at matheducators. Here are some recent questions of mine of that sort. 1 2 3

20

My view is that what should count is the (academic/scientific interest) times (the amount of mathematics involved). So if the academic interest is huge and the mathematical component is modest we should go for it. (Perhaps even actively try to ask about mathematics angles of super major developments in other sciences.) In other words if something huge ...

19

I am in favor of (prudent) use of MathOverflow as a tool to find underexposed content such as proofs of "folk theorems" and alternative proofs of standard facts. An advantage of this use is that replies at MO often come with meta-information which is worth archiving (informed opinions, equivalences between approaches, errata and historical information); I ...

18

Questions asking for the correctness of certain papers are generally off-topic on MathOverflow. Concerning the particular problem whether P=NP or not, there have been a lot of claimed proofs or disproofs, as well as claimed proofs that the question is undecidable -- see e.g. http://www.win.tue.nl/~gwoegi/P-versus-NP.htm.

18

Sometimes a question may look superficially reasonable, but some details seem a little off. There is no need to spend your time on MathOverflow in a state of watchful alertness, but if something sets off your alarms, please let the moderators know, and move on. I'm sorry I didn't shut this down more quickly.
A reminder: It is generally a waste of everyone'...

18

I find it difficult to understand many of the comments and concerns that this question seems to have raised. The site has a fairly simple and well established procedure for closing/keeping open questions: five votes to close, five to reopen, five more to close and so on. In situations where reasonable people can disagree, this seems a perfectly fine way ...

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