When making a website of applications of Ramsey Theory to Computer Science or website of satires of Bob Dylan. or a website of Funny Math Songs (coming soon) or any list or a website of famous people known only by one name (hoping somone else does this, but I have a pretty good list) one encounters various problems:
- What is an Application? What is Ramsey Theory? What is Computer Science? These are not important questions, but when making a list they need to be answered. For example, is using Gowers Techniques that have been used in Ramsey Theory count? Probably yes since most people looking at my website on applications of Ramsey Theory will care about that. Do I count papers that use computer programs to find Ramsey Numbers (or VDW numbers or...). I have not, thats not really an application. What about computer science papers (hmmm- how do you define that?) that give constructive lower bounds on Ramsey Numbers? (I have begun a website on Constructive Ramsey Numbers that makes no pretense of being close to complete.) If you include to much you lose coherency. Better indexing might help, but I don't have that much time to spend on this. (I'd have more if I didn't do this blog :-).)
- What is a Bob Dylan Satire? If Bob Dylan sings it, then can it be a Bob Dylan satire? (Yes). If William Shattner sings Mr. Tamborine Man very badly, and its funny, but he did not intend it as satire, is it a satire? (Yes). If someone just sings incoherently but its not funny is a Dylan satire? (No) Here my criteria is mostly Do I find it funny?, or is there Some other reason to include it? But in the end its my call and might be arbitrary at times. Fortunately, in this one area, I may be the worlds leading authority so the answer might be If Bill Gasarch says its a Dylan Satire, then it is.
- Funny Math Songs- When I get around to this one I will use the Is it funny? criteria. Otherwise you are stuck with lots of stuff that uses math very tangentially- For example, in Bob Dylan's song Tangled up in Blues he has one line Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters wife's. One line does not a math song make. Also, there are some songs about computers being hard to use (The best one- Where's the Service by The Pheremones.) I would not include this. Should I include it in funny songs about computer science. No- its not science. But it is funny. Alas- so many websites to make, so little time.
- More generally, when making a list you need to balance the need to be complete with the need to be coherent. And many unimportant questions need to be answered, such as What is an application. This may help sharpen your mind and teach you things, but it can also drive you into pointless arguments with Dylan Fans.