About the title
About the title
I changed the title of the blog on March 20, 2013 (it used to have the title “Notes of an owl”). This was my immediate reaction to the news the T. Gowers was presenting to the public the works of P. Deligne on the occasion of the award of the Abel prize to Deligne in 2013 (by his own admission, T. Gowers is not qualified to do this).The issue at hand is not just the lack of qualification; the real issue is that the award to P. Deligne is, unfortunately, the best compensation to the mathematical community for the 2012 award of Abel prize to Szemerédi. I predicted Deligne before the announcement on these grounds alone. I would prefer if the prize to P. Deligne would be awarded out of pure appreciation of his work.
I believe that mathematicians urgently need to stop the growth of Gowers's influence, and, first of all, his initiatives in mathematical publishing. I wrote extensively about the first one; now there is another: to take over the arXiv overlay electronic journals. The same arguments apply.
Now it looks like this title is very good, contrary to my initial opinion. And there is no way back.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Where one can find an autobiography of Alexander Grothendieck? Part 1
michal2602 asked this question in a comment to the previous post. The short reply would be "I have no idea". This post and the next one are devoted to a long reply.
I don't know, and by good reasons.
First of all, autobiographical and philosophical texts of Grothendieck were never published. They were offered (I am not sure that by Grothendieck himself) to some publishers in France, and everyone rejected the offer. I was told that in his autobiographical texts Grothendieck applied to his colleagues and his own students’ very high moral standards, and points out the violation of these standards. Moreover, sometimes he points out violation of the common standards of scientific ethics or even of the common decency standards. The problem is that he names the violators. And this is something that is quite risky (for the potential publisher) in France (or so I was told).
At the same time the mathematical community does not like such things at all (this is my observation). The mathematical community prefers not to investigate even the cases of nearly oblivious stealing of theorems or ideas (even when an investigation will clear the accused). If your theorem is stolen, you are better off if you do not tell about this in public (unless your proof was literally copy-pasted from your paper to a paper of somebody else).
Apparently, Americans are much more tolerant to the public discussion of any aspect of the life of all sorts of celebrities (the legal term is the “public person”). As is well known, the right to discuss this is codified in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and its Supreme Court interpretations. And why somebody in the US would care about an accusation of a member French Academy? It would be quite natural to translate the Grothendieck’s autobiography in English and to publish it. The American Mathematical Society is the most natural publisher for such a translation. This never happened. The American Mathematical Society considers Grothendieck’s autobiography to be just not interesting enough.
For me, all this is rather depressing. I used to think that the scientific community (including the mathematical one) is open and welcoming controversies. In my opinion, everything written by a mathematician of high enough caliber should be published (may be except wrong proof, but even some wrong proofs deserve to be published). Grothendieck’s caliber is much higher than necessary for this. If such a mathematician holds currently unacceptable opinion, let us argue about it. If she or he misunderstood something, or wasn’t well informed, let us point out at the mistake. But we should not silence people. We don’t have to publish all the rubbish people can produce, but if we deal with a genius, we cannot be certain that we can tell apart the rubbish from that we just don’t understand yet.
Next post: Where one can find an autobiography of Alexander Grothendieck? Part 2.