these mathematicians…

Mathematicians have this uncanny ability to make things for the rest of the world. A research paper in math (or any related topic such as Theoretical Computer Science) is judged not on the content or “value add” but on the proportion of the paper covered by math symbols. English is frowned upon, Hindi even more so; and the more complicated the language of the paper, the higher regard it gets from within the clique.

Some concepts are so simple and intuitive that if you take maybe a special case, it can be explained in English in maybe a page. However, how can this happen? Mathematicians thrive in the complex world (no pun intended, though they keep imagining things), and their power will be lost if anything they say is simplified. So complicated it shall remain.

I’m currently reading something which, if explained in a 2-dimensional space, can be explained clearly and intuitively using a couple of diagrams. However, the paper wouldn’t have been accepted if it were putting across a concept so straightforwardly. A p dimensional space has to be introduced. Matrix algebra brought in. Loads of sigmas and pis thrown across the place, and efforts taken to make sure that the knowledge remains within the preserve of mathematicians. All in the name of formality.

I did my BTech project in Theoretical Computer Science. And wrote my report in English, eschewing symbols and integrals as much as possible. It was touted as “the worst project report I’ve ever seen” by one of the examiners, “it isn’t formal enough”.

On another occasion, as part of an algorithms course assignment, I came up with an algorithm and gave an intuitive proof in two lines. My groupmates would have none of it. They used some “formal notation” and wrote what I had told them in 2 lines in 6 pages! Profound.

Yeah of course, MBAs are also guilty of such crimes, but the jargon they use is limited, and most of it has been cracked by the “junta” so it’s not that bad. But these mathematicians… i’m wondering if i could at least put lawyers below them!

One thought on “these mathematicians…”

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