Archive for the ‘tech for maths’ Category

Tricki is up (kinda sorta)

April 4, 2009

I was starting to think it was some kind of vapourware, but the Tricki is up to view (via Tim Gowers ). You can’t edit yet, and it’s small. The articles there at the moment are well written (when they are complete).

I hope the project works. The sort of information that it is designed to contain is not easily available anywhere else. It’s the nature of maths that you can give a completely convincing explanation of why something is true (a proof) without giving away very much at all about how you came to know it was true (the endless headdesking before the proof). AFAIK there is no other field of study where this is true to anything like the same extent. For better or worse, the normal style of a maths journal paper positively encourages hiding the process that lead you to the result. Thus, the only way you can usually find out tools for proof is by having somebody show you, and it’s obviously rather hit-and-miss as to whether you will ever explain your problem to the person with the right trick up their sleeve. Somewhere to pool this sort of information and a decent way of navigating it will be very useful indeed.

I also think it has a fairly good chance of working well. I can see possible problems; it would be hard (and probably counter-productive) to set down very firm rules about how articles should be( such as exist at Wikipedia) s conflict resolution will rely on people being reasonable. I think this won’t be too bad though because (IME and compared to academics in other disciplines) mathematicians have, typically, as a group, fairly good habits with respect collaboration.

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It’s [almost] time (to rock a rhyme)³

October 16, 2008

It’s tricki!.

If Tim Gowers’s project for a wiki-like compendium of proof techniques catches on (and the search features work well), it could be a really big deal. These sorts of tricks are traditionally not recorded anywhere. Their use is buried deep in the folds of proofs where it’s difficult to see the scope of the idea. To learn the use of a particular technique you have to have the good luck to work with someone who knows the right tool and shows you it.

If used well, Tricki could speed up problem solving considerably. I don’t want to sound too excitable, but this is like the mathmos’ LHC.

btw. I lost my passport while I was in England and got stuck there (bad) and a bunch of other stuff is going on (good) so I doubt I’ll write the post I mentioned last time for a while. The moment has kind of passed.

EDIT: I could have sworn “It’s Tricky” went “It’s time to rock around”. Apparently it’s “It’s tricky to rock a rhyme” which makes more sense. I’m only half correcting the title though.