Away: “Dedicated to N.N.”

Okay, last of the conference absence away posts. This repost is about how mathematicians immortalize each other.

(If I’m not back tomorrow, go read the Dark Sin of the Mathematicians; it’s not an oldie, but it’s a post I’m absurdly proud of.)

* * *

This being the official scale of rewards given by mathematicians and the mathematical community.

  1. Communal paperclip (“The J.S. Glomp paperclip; in honor of his attainment of the Ph.D. degree ENGRAVED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS WITH LASERS”)
  2. Reusable envelope (“No, no. Don’t cross that over. It’s the dedication.”)
  3. Paper, “presented to”, “in honor of” or “lamenting the memory of”
  4. Collection of conference papers, “on the occasion of” birthday, retirement, hair density falling below 1/3, etc.
  5. Book, “dedicated to the memory of” (not a good sign of communal expectations of your health if there’s one in the works)
  6. Conference announcement (“Featuring the famous eponymous Frank Lemma! Every participant, minus grad students, gets to rub his bald pate for luck!”)
  7. Coffee grinder/maker (machine or graduate student; it is good form to increase the graduate student’s stipend/grant a bit if he lands a coveted post like this)
  8. Toilet stall (“We couldn’t afford a lecture hall! But see, we got a shiny plaque! Oh shoosh, there’s some graffiti on it already — is that your number? ‘Call for good time’?”)
  9. Cafeteria table (“He used to drink coffee and converse with his graduate students here. See, those are his teethmarks.”)
  10. Lecture hall
  11. Building (“While the university naming a new building after me is nice indeed, I wonder if they meant something by choosing the Staff Refreshment Sauna and Drinks Compound?”)
  12. Lodge of the fraternal order of mathematicii, Scandy tradition (outside Sweden-Finland, of the Skull and Crossproduct [also known as Skull and Gibbs vector product] Society, or the Ancient Bavarian Order of Obfuscati, or the Priory of Z(n).)
  13. Prize (Fields medal, Chalkdust Albino Award for Teaching Excellence; named for noted mathematicians W. C. Fields and Reinhardt Chalkdust-Albino of Hesse-Grundrechenart.)
  14. Week-long festival (e.g. the Gödel Orgies of the University of Jena)
  15. Cult (Euler, Leibniz, Erdös, Nevanlinna; the Cult of f(x) Notation is not eponymous.)

In addition to these, mathematicians can of course elevate one from among them into godhood, as in the cases of Gauss and Pythagoras, though the details are not common knowledge: a circle of thirteen pure and thirteen applied mathematicians can lift one from among them into immortal omnipotence outside a set of limited linear Lebesgue measure. As this effort consumes the other twenty-five people and applied mathematicians involved, it is not often encouraged; especially, except in rare special cases, no professor is allowed to have more than twenty graduate students as there have been unfortunate cases of entire research projects literally evaporating into clouds of black burnt dust and demented chalkdust-raspy laughter.

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