Friday, May 04, 2012

Is it well known that we need to redefine well known?

A LONG time (so long ago I was a guest poster, not a co-blogger)
I posted
about how calling things that are on You-Tube rare is odd
since ITS ON YOU-TUBE! ANYONE in the world can look at it!
I now have a Contrasting thought: Can something be
well known if its not easily found on the web?

Last week I
a proof that the intersection of a CFL and a REG lang
is CFL that did not use PDA's. I thought it was NOT new and indeed, the
comments politely gave me the proper reference.
So far, so good. But wait--- some of them called the proof Well Known.
Can a proof be well known if its not on the web?
The notion of a proof being well known has always been problematic
since one wonders what the scope is.

  1. Addition
    being commutative is well known but might not
    to my 5-year old niece.
    Someone emailed me that I should take this opp to teach her
    about noncommutative algebras.
  2. Binary search is well known but might not be known to my (then)
    8 year old great nephew.
    Some said I should use this opp to teach him logarithms.
  3. Induction is a well known technique but it still puzzles some undergraduates.i
  4. The poly vdw theorem
    is well known among mathematically inclined
    high school students in Maryland but
    is not even that well known among combinatorists.
The point really is well known to who?. But now with the web we can ask a more focused question: Can you find it easily? The proof I posted was not one that I found on the web. So here is what I want your thoughts on:
  1. Should we redefine our definition of
  2. If I were to make an article out of the three short notes on CFL's
    that I posted about, and submit to Math Archives,
    would that help the problem of what is easy to find
    or would it just clutter up Math Archives making things hard to find.
    (I would of course provide all references and make NO claim to
  3. Should I post to Wikipedia?
  4. Will the web ever replace
    asking someone who knows stuff?


  1. I have heard the phrase "It is well-known to those who know"

  2. Wikipedia seems overly general. What about posting them to

  3. I think 'well known' not only implies scope, but also time. The web is great for many things that have become well known since it became popular, but not as good for finding out what 'was' well known before. I still don't think it encompasses the breadth or depth of our collective knowledge, yet ...


  4. You can ask the same question about 'folklore'.

  5. When I want to be able to find a paper again quickly, I add it to the pile next to my desk. The pile grew to 3 feet high, and it was not usually possibly to find the paper I wanted to reconsult right away.

    There is already a system of tenure to reward researchers, teachers, and whoever should be the future dean. Maybe tenure should be awarded for people who can find information very quickly.

  6. "Well known" is certainly sometimes missused. It should ideally be restricted to things that are standard issues in academic curricula in the subject. Or, at least, that are explained quite standardly in common secondary litterature as textbooks and overview articles. Things that are "almost impossible to have been missed" by serious workers in a field, even if they have not been actively looking for this very fact. The question of "well known" is orthogonal to discussions of internet.