Monday, December 07, 2015

crank math and crank people

In the same week I got email claming:

1) Babai had shown that GI is in quasipoly time.

2)  Opeyemi Enoch, a Nigerian Mathematician, solved the Riemann hypothesis.

I believe Babai's claim since (a) he's worked on the problem a lot and is a known expert, (b) the result is believable, and (c) the math we know now seem up to the task.

I do not believe Enoch's claim. It would be unfair for me to not believe it because I never heard of him. However, my sources in math say that RH is not in a position to be solved. Also, articles I've read on the web including   this article  seem to say things that cast doubts on it such as this quote:

 motivation to solve the problem came from his students, who brought it to him with the hope of making 1 million ``off the internet''

Bobby Jindall (who?)  dropped out of the Prez race (why am I bringing this up? Is he working on RH?) Bobby Jindall was a Rhodes Scholar. (why am I bringing this up? Wait and see.)

In 2003 I was in a Taxi (ask your grandparents what Taxi's were before we had Uber) and the driver began telling me lots of conspiracies--- there is no Gold in Fort Knx, the novel Goldfinger was Ian Flemmings attempt to tell us this, Reagan was shot because he knew this, and the American Presidency is controlled by a secret cabal.  I pointed out that if that's the case how did George Bush Sr (clearly a member of  the Cabal) lose to Bill Clinton.  His answer: Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar and the Cabal is controlled by Rhode Scholars.

Its hard to argue with a conspiracy theorist about the past. But you can challenge him to predict the future. So I told him ``if you can predict who will be the Democratic Nominee for Prez in 2004 then I will look at your website and take it seriously. If not, then not''  He smiled and just said ``Wesley Clark was a Rhodes scholar'' If I had asked him who would be the republican nominee in 2016 then he might have said ``Bobby Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar''

The way to expose conspiracy theorists, astrologers,  and The National Inquirer is to take their predictions seriously and test them. I wonder why anyone believes these things given their track record.

Judging math things is different- A math paper can be read and should stand on its own.


  1. Wait, I s'pose next you'll try to tell us that humans REALLY did land on the moon...? ;-)

  2. Using your argument, you'd have dismissed Zhang's proof of infinitely many primes at gap M less than 10^6 as the work of a crank.

    1. Not quite, though you raise a good point.
      I said why I DO believe Babai
      I said why I DO NOT believe Enoch

      I did cover all cases.

      Zhang fits into neither criteria.
      Not Babai Category: I didn't know Zhang was an expert. Theo the other two criteria Zhang did fit. I've heard that the math we know now is not up to the Twin Primes Conjecture, but below that progress is plausible. And the result is certainly believale.

      Not Enoch Category: What Zhang did is in the realm of the plausible, and there was no newsarticle about it that wrote things that just didn't seem right.

      Scott had a much more complete list of criteria here:

      One odd thing- the first item on the list is that the paper be in TeX (or LaTeX I suppose). Babis's result is on VIDEO. But frankly that may be a BETTER means to describe a rigorous proof

    2. TYPO in above- I meant I DIDN"T cover all cases.