CERN and the Administration

From CERN: they’ve made and contained antimatter. This is seen from a press release, which refers to a paper just published in Nature.

That’s not emphasized because of Nature-awe; as they don’t publish mathematics I, out of spite, refuse to be awed by them. That’s emphasized because it’s a press release about a published paper.

Remember, if you ever see science done with just a press release, it’s as likely as not all wrong. (Matter of fact, never believe a press release; if listening to the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe has taught me anything it’s that anything medical at least can’t be believed based on a news story, or the press release, or the abstract. And sometimes the paper itself only serves to convince one that, damn, they must have a mighty fine liquor budget down there.) This is because press releases are made to be made of interesting!, to grab your attention and shake it until its bladder goes; while scientific publications are supposed to be able to persuade a slow, peevish reader into agreement.

Not that I’m saying all physicists are slow and peevish, but one needs to act as though they were.


But moving on, on the subject of how really awesome physics is, this Nature paper with its 25 auth— oh, wait, “et al.”?

Well dang it, the paper has 45 authors.

Or possibly 42; I keep counting the names but there are just too many.

Not to be bitter or anything, but how are we mathematicians supposed to compete in the PR game? We don’t have any journal that would make the higher-ups as wet as Nature does. Our discoveries are just as exciting, but they take the progressive derangement of several years of study to really understand, and more than a minute to misexplain. We don’t have massive work groups that would, every and each, drop their names into each paper, ratcheting up the apparently precious publication count. We don’t get involved en masse in shiny collaborations with others far away, because four people don’t spread too far beyond four locations, max. We don’t do spin-offs and local newspaper profiles, because the fools, they would never understand. We’re screwed because mathematics does not require such crowds and shiny toys as physics properly does; mathematics is not a natural science though that’s the nook where we have to live; we are a mind game and not a laboratory discipline.

(Mathematics is a discipline of the lash. Ka-spasssh!)

Sometimes the stupid assumptions of similarity implicit in what the administration says and seems to expect are so grating that something like this gets written —

* * *

Our math. dept. is consistently excellent (draft)

by M-of-E, other grad students, cleaning lady, etc.

Lemma 1. Most math papers have four authors or less. (Say 90% of them.)

Proof. (to come)

Lemma 2. Outside an exceptional set of limited Lebesgue measure, papers in Nature have more than sixteen authors. (In the following results we extend the authorship counting function into the exceptional set in the usual fashion, so we can assume this result holds everywhere outside the Jan. 1982 special swimsuit issue.)

Proof. (Rudin, “Function Theory in the Unit Ball of \mathbb C^n“?)

Note. Dear physicists were all agog about two of their people being among the authors of a paper published in Nature recently. Thus we will take “two authors out of seventeen across umpteen universities” to be above the “OMG FTW” threshold of the administration.

Lemma 3. Nine times out of ten, a math paper with 0 authors in a category “A” is equivalent to a Nature paper with 2 authors in category “A”.

Proof. It is well known that 2/17 \approx 0.118; also, we can assume that 0.118 times four rounds to zero and not to one. Hence by Lemma 1, in 90% of mathematics publications (4 authors or less), papers with 0 authors in a category are in the equivalence class equivalent to that of 2 authors out of 17 or more in a Nature paper. In the case of papers with 4 authors or less, there is no topology that would generate finer equivalence classes, each author being collapsed to a single point, so this result is optimal.

Theorem 1. Our math. dept. is doing as good as the physicists did; and not just once, but all the time!

Proof. Follows from the preceding by choosing A = “in our university”, given that the sum mass total of every single mathematical journal, ever, has to be at least \frac{1}{0.9} (1+\epsilon) Natures for some \epsilon > 0.

Corollary 1. Respect the mathematician.

Proof. Obvious.

Support. The authors have been supported by their undying hatred of those who do not love the administration. Hail to the Dean! Death to his enemies! Peace and love!

* * *

— then again, after writing something like that both the facetious pique and the actual irritation are spent, and one can concentrate again on making the gradients and the integral averages spin around.

And such a sweet music they make as they do.

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