MathOverflow is an interactive mathematics website, which serves both as a collaborative blog and an online community of mathematicians. It allows users to ask questions, submit answers, and rate both, all while getting merit points for their activities. It is a part of the Stack Exchange Network.
It is primarily for asking questions on mathematics research – i.e. related to unsolved problems and the extension of knowledge of mathematics into areas that are not yet known – and does not welcome requests from non-mathematicians for instruction, for example homework exercises. It does welcome various questions on other topics that might normally be discussed among mathematicians, for example about publishing, refereeing, advising, getting tenure, etc. It is generally inhospitable to questions perceived as tendentious or argumentative.
Origin and history
The website was started by Berkeley graduate students and postdocs Anton Geraschenko, David Zureick-Brown, and Scott Morrison on 28 September 2009. The hosting was supported by Ravi Vakil. The site originally ran on a separate installation of the StackExchange 1.0 software engine; on June 25, 2013, it has been integrated in the regular Stack Exchange Network, running SE 2.0.
According to MathOverflow FAQ, the proper spelling is "MathOverflow" rather than "Math Overflow".
Use of mathematical formulas
The original version of the website did not support LaTeX markup for mathematical formulas. To support most of the functionality of LaTeX, MathJax was added in order for the site to transform math equations into their appropriate forms. In its current state, any post including "Math Mode" (text between $'s) will translate into proper mathematical notation.
As of April 4, 2012, there have been 16,496 registered users to MathOverflow, most of whom have been in the United States (35%), India (12%), and the United Kingdom (6%). So far, 39,768 questions have been posted. Questions are answered an average of 3.9 hours after they are posted, and "Acceptable" answers take an average of 5.01 hours.
- Terence Tao characterized it as "venerable newsgroup sci.math, but with more modern, 'Web 2.0' features."
- John C. Baez writes that "website 'Math Overflow' has become a universal clearinghouse for math questions".
- According to Gil Kalai, MathOverflow "is ran [sic] by an energetic and impressive group of very (very very) young people".
- Jordan Ellenberg comments that the website "offers a constantly changing array of new questions" and is "addictive" in a "particularly pure form", as he compares it to the Polymath Project.
- Jared Keller in The Atlantic writes, "Math Overflow is almost an anti-social network, focused solely on productively addressing the problems posed by its users." He quotes Scott Morrison saying "Mathematicians as a whole are surprisingly skeptical of many aspects of the modern Internet... In particular, things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. are viewed as enormous wastes of time."
- Anton Geraschenko writes, “One thing that I like to point out in conversation about MO is that putting a question or answer out there without posing it towards some specific person often leads to meaningful interactions with awesome people. Some people start collaborations based on MO questions, but even if you don’t, you get to know a lot of people pretty well, which feels great. Also, there is something about interacting with famous people on MO that humanizes my internal representation of them.”
- Stack Exchange Network, which also hosts a site for mathematics for every audience, not limited to mathematicians.
- Jared Keller, Beyond Facebook: How the World's Mathematicians Organize Online, The Atlantic, 28 September 2010
- Krieger, Lisa M. (August 8, 2010), "Stanford and UC Berkeley create massively collaborative math", San Jose Mercury News.
- Christian Perfect (25 June 2013). "Math Overflow 2.0". The Aperiodical.
- Official website
- "Sharenator MO Statistics".
- David Zureick-Brown (29 March 29 2011). "MathOverflow (presentation slides)".
- Terence Tao (20 October 2009). "Math Overflow".
- John C. Baez (March 2010). "Math Blogs". Notices of the AMS.
- Gil Kalai (13 November 2009). "Math Overflow".
- Jordan Ellenberg (17 October 2009). "Why Math Overflow works, and why it might not".
- Jared Keller (28 September 2010). "Beyond Facebook: How the World's Mathematicians Organize Online". The Atlantic.