READING PAPERS FOR FUN Bill Gasarch guest blogging for Lance Fortnow Jane: What you you been working on? Bill: I've come up with an elementary proof of the Gen. Multidim Poly van der Warden's theorem. Jane: Is it new? Is it publishable? Does it have applications? Bill: Its not new- People in the field already know this. Jane: How many people are in the field. Bill: Lets not go there. However, not new, not publishable as original research, and no applications that I know of. I got a guest post in Luca's Blog about it, but that does not count for anything (should it?). Anyway, here is a nice (known) corollary: For any 2-coloring of the lattice points of the plane there exists d\in N and a d by d^2 rectangle where all four corners are the same color. Jane: Why did you spend time reading something with no hope for original research? Bill: Jane, you ignorant ... (lets not go there either). 1) I was very curious about this theorem. That is reason enough. People don't watch Shakespeare plays for the sole purpose of getting a paper out on them. Except English Professors. 2) Reading math or CS stuff that interests you is one way to find open problems and new angles on things. So this is good in the long term. 3) Just because I did not plan to publish based on it does not mean that I won't. By reading up on Ramsey Theory I have gotten out two papers, ideas for a third, several (non publishable) ugrad and highs school projects, and a problem for the MD Math Olympiad. Jane: Do you always talk in lists? Bill: Only in fictional conversations. Is it valuable to read math of interest to you with no particular plan for application? Clearly Yes. But the real question is, compared to what? Compared to reading articles more directed towards a particular problem? Compared to working on Math Olympiad problems? Compared to sitting and thinking? Compared to browsing porn on the web? The answers vary from person to person. However, my sense is that reading for pure interest is underrated.