Sunday, February 04, 2024

The advantage of working on obscue things

 I got an email from an organization that wants to publicize one of my papers. Which paper did they want to publicize?

1) If the organization was Quanta, they are KNOWN so I would trust it. Indeed, they have contacted me about my paper proving primes infinite from Ramsey theory (they contacted all of the authors of papers that did that). The article they published is here and I blogged about those proofs here.

2) Someone writing an article on my muffin work for a recreational journal contacted me- also believable.

3) But the email I got was from an organization I never heard of and they wanted to publicize An NP-Complete Problem in Grid Coloring. This  is not a topic of general interest, even among complexity theorist or Ramsey theorists.  Indeed, the paper has three authors and only two of them care about it. Hence I suspected the organization was a scam or quasi-scam. I looked them up and YES, at some point they would have wanted money for their efforts. 

I want to say none of my work is of general interest but that may depend on what is meant by general and by interest. Suffice to say that if a scammer claims they want to publicize my work and picks a random paper to ask me about, the probability that its one where I will say Yes, I can see that one being worth getting to a wider audience is negligible. Indeed, Darling was amazed that Quanta cared about using Ramsey Theory to prove primes infinite. She may have a point there.

But if I worked in Quantum or ML or Quantum ML  then it would be harder for me to say for a random paper they can't possibly think that this was wider appeal, so its obviously a scam. 

That is the advantage of working on obscure things.

1 comment:

  1. As one who loves to work on obscure things, I really wonder if random mathematicians really say to themselves "no I am going to find a career doing mainstream things" and then they find themselves doing with a PhD and understanding things like combinatorics so they are sitting and listening to a conversation about football or Harry Potter or the Bible and instead of asking simple questions like "what was the score of the game last night", "so which house did Harry wind up in?", "Or why is the Old Testament so confusing".

    But instead he likes to work on obscure things so he says he can just do some sports analytics that will use combinatorics take into account things like graph theory all fun stuff. It won't be easy to explain in a conversation and most of his math friends won't care because they don't watch sports, but that's cool. Lets try to connect to the writing crowd. We can write some sentiment analytics to help try to understand which house each person would go to. Its still hard to explain, especially to his book friends, but that's cool. Surely his Bible friends will understand him trying to understand the Bible, right? So he writes these summarizers meant to help tokenize chapters of the Bible, but again when he goes to share it he's met with confusion.