Sunday, July 05, 2015
Does Bob Deserve the lavish acknowledgement: A problem in Logic
Alice and Carol are real mathematicians.
Bob is an English major who does not know any mathematics.
(This story is based on a true incident.)
Alice writes a math paper. Carol reads it and offers corrections of style and grammar and how-to-say-things. She also helps simplify some of the proofs. She does not deserve a co-authorship but Alice does of course write in the acknowledgements
I would like to thank Carol for proofreading and for help with some of the proofs.
Bob points out that this is silly --- if she would like to thank Carol then do so. So Alice changes it to
I thank Carol for proofreading and for help with some of the proofs.
Even though Bob does not understand the math he begins reading the paper. He finds a few grammar mistakes, some points of style, and even a math mistake:
BOB: Alice, this sentence mentions A1 and A2, is A1 the steak sauce?
ALICE: Its A sub 1 and no it is not the steak sauce.
BOB: But later in the sentence there is a reference to A? Maybe its implicit what A is and I don't get it since I don't know the math, but it does look funny.
ALICE: Well pierce my ears and call be drafty! You're right! It should be A1, A2, and A_1 ∩ A_2.
SO, in the end Bob DID proofread the paper and DID help. Alice wants to include him in the acknowledgements. She modifies the ack to
I thank Bob and Carol for proofreading and help with some of the proofs.
Is that correct? Bob just did proofreading, and Carol did proofreading AND helped with some proofs. In logical terms
If B did X and C did X and Y then
B AND C did X AND Y
does seem correct.
But is also seems misleading. Alice could separate it out:
I thank Carol for proofreading and help with some of the proofs.
I thank Bob and Carol for proofreading.
Thats more accurate but also more cumbersome.
But my real question is, is the I THANK BOB AND CAROL... statement correct or incorrect? In logic correct, in English, perhaps not. We could ask Bob who is an English major and maybe get a paper out of it which Carol can proofread!