Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Mathematics/Archive 38

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Archive 35 Archive 36 Archive 37 Archive 38 Archive 39 Archive 40 Archive 45

Request for help at quantum articles

There is a dispute. Please see Talk:Shor's algorithm and Talk:Quantum computer. Skippydo (talk) 15:19, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

People known as the father or mother of something

It's far from being a mathematics article, but there's some quasi-history-of-math content at people known as the father or mother of something, which has recently been nominated for deletion. Project members may be interested in participating in the discussion. —David Eppstein (talk) 06:09, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

"arguments" subpage at Cantor's diagonal argument

I have refactored the talk page, talk:Cantor's diagonal argument, moving arguments about the underlying validity to talk:Cantor's diagonal argument/Arguments. Please help keep an eye. Keep in mind that the "Arguments" subpage is not only for crackpot arguments -- it's for any discussion of the validity of the underlying mathematics as opposed to discussions related to improving the article. --Trovatore (talk) 08:22, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

My gawd. I take it you are moving toward implementing a similar system as for .999... (which strangely does not redirect to 1 (number) :-)). That article also has an FAQ. That might go a long way toward reducing the noise for the diagonal argument article. Any volunteers? Incidentally, should we really be encouraging people to post their arguments? Why doesn't just using the "hammer" of WP:V suffice? I can understand that editors feel a need to educate the public, but isn't that better served by improving the article and incorporating suggestions from the talk page (like with all the other articles). Do we really need to turn the talk pages into Usenet too? --C S (talk) 08:57, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
It's not so much about educating the public as about providing a relief valve. This sort of discussion will take place in any case; this methodology helps keep the main talk pages for these articles available for their intended purposes, without resorting to just blanking other people's comments, a procedure that could seem harsh and authoritarian. --Trovatore (talk) 16:00, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
Just to head off a lot of redundant argument, please see Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Talk:0.999.../Arguments as most of the discussion there is applicable here.--RDBury (talk) 20:18, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

John McKay BLP something something

Howdy, an anon signing as John McKay has requested some corrections at Talk:Held group and Talk:Janko group J3 that are affected by BLP/COI, but his language is a little too brief for me to be sure. I think he is doing roughly the right thing: I think he is saying "you guys aren't giving me credit for stuff I discovered", but he is not actually changing the main article to add positive material about himself. Can I get a few eyes on the article to check if we need to fix a BLP problem?

If it is just run of the mill fact checking, writing, and editing, then I or User:Scott Tillinghast, Houston TX will get to it at some point. Personally, I think we say nothing negative, so there is no problem, but I wanted a few other people to check and wanted to make sure that "leaving out attribution" is not a serious problem (otherwise, we will need a task force to fix this omnipresent problem). JackSchmidt (talk) 15:54, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

There are no BLP or COI issues here. --C S (talk) 02:00, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

The symposium by Brauer and Shih has a chapter by Dieter Held. If I remember correctly, Held proposed the Held group and McKay and maybe one of the Higmans proved its existence by constructing it. Held noticed that the simple groups M24 and GL(5,2) have involutions with isomorphic centralizers (and isomorphic Sylow 2-subgroups) and looked for other possibilities. Thomas Thompson's Carus monograph refers to McKay (p. 118) in connection with J3. Scott Tillinghast, Houston TX (talk) 00:52, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Empty product

Moved to Talk:Empty product#Moved from WikiProject talk. Ozob (talk) 21:02, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

FAC Edward Wright (mathematician)

Up for possible featured status is the article on Elizabethan mathematician Edward Wright, who gave the first mathematical description and tables for calculating the Mercator projection. Reviews of the article would be very welcome, and comments on its FAC page. -- Jheald (talk) 18:19, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Empty product

Please step in at empty product; I'm afraid I lose my temper when exposed to Bo Jacoby. --Trovatore (talk) 09:49, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

(rest of discussion moved to Talk: empty product#Moved from WikiProject talk)

Re-org of trochoid and cycloid related curves

I'm planning to re-organize some the material in the following articles:

Trochoid, Epitrochoid, Hypotrochoid, Cycloid, Epicycloid, Hypocycloid, Rose (mathematics)

The reason is that, due to the fact these are related curves, there is duplication in much of the material and it would be difficult to further expand the articles without further duplication. In particular I would like to add a section about dual generation without creating multiple copies that need to be kept consistent. It seems to me that a more hierarchical structure is needed so that new material can be placed in the article of the appropriate generality.

Following [1] and linked pages, I'd propose the following structure, with new articles to be created where necessary:

Trochoidal curve
Centered trochoid
Rose (mathematics)
Cycloidal curve
Centered cycloid

Does anyone have objections or suggested changes?--RDBury (talk) 17:49, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

I know very little about these things. Unless you want to add a lot of new material, I would actually suggest merging most of these articles. They are very, very "parallel" in terms of article structure, content and, most importantly, mathematics. Jakob.scholbach (talk) 20:04, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm going to go ahead and start work on this. If the existing articles end up with not enough material to support them once duplicate material is combined into new articles then I'll propose a merge, it depends on how things evolve.--RDBury (talk) 23:26, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Punctuation of block-displayed formulae

There is a little discussion going on at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (mathematics)#Punctuation of block-displayed formulae.  --Lambiam 07:15, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Ars Conjectandi at FAC

Please note the above current FAC on Bernouilli's famous text.

I wonder if the article can really be considered "comprehensive". Contributions to the discussion and assistance with the article from editors here would be very welcome. Geometry guy 17:56, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Induced homomorphism

Just FWIW induced homomorphism has been split. Similar actions in the past have been called POV forks or recreations. At any rate the new one needs cleanup. I took care of the disambiguation already, but "the reader is invited to consider the fairly trivial task of rewriting this in a tone we find acceptable." as well as wikilinking, and math markup JackSchmidt (talk) 14:34, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

These two articles are both mis-titled. The one currently called induced homomorphism (category theory) is not really in category theory, and should perhaps be called just induced homomorphism. The one currently called induced homomorphism (algebraic topology) should probably be called induced homomorphism (fundamental group), as this is its scope, while algebraic topology is abundant with other induced homomorphisms. Oded (talk) 14:44, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
I was going to suggest the same thing. siℓℓy rabbit (talk) 14:46, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

I have done one of the moves (induced homomorphism (algebraic topology) induced homomorphism (fundamental group)), but an admin will have to do the other one. Any volunteers? Oded (talk) 04:49, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

I have done the other move, induced homomorphism (category theory)induced homomorphism. -- Jitse Niesen (talk) 09:22, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

Should Linear differential equation be renamed?

See Talk:Linear differential equation#Article Should be Re-titled: "Linear Ordinary Differential Equations".  --Lambiam 19:34, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

FAR Trigonometric functions

Trigonometric functions has been nominated for a featured article review. Articles are typically reviewed for two weeks. Please leave your comments and help us to return the article to featured quality. If concerns are not addressed during the review period, articles are moved onto the Featured Article Removal Candidates list for a further period, where editors may declare "Keep" or "Remove" the article from featured status. The instructions for the review process are here. Reviewers' concerns are here.--Ioannes Pragensis (talk) 12:41, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

There seem to be a number of (mostly minor) issues w.r.t. FA status. However, it would be a pity if the article was demoted. Should we build a little task force to work on that article? (I'm personally very busy with groups right now, so cannot really join in). But I'd really encourage everybody having a minute to invest it into this nice and worthy article. The WP:MATH should take particular care of its best articles, I think! Jakob.scholbach (talk) 12:10, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Stencil array

Stencil array is listed at Wikipedia:Articles requested for more than a year. A stencil is an integer array, containing the indices of the vertices in the geometry array (of the previous level). Thus, a

is an array of integer arrays (and contains multiple stencils).[2] If you think it is worth at least a stub, please create the article. If not, perhaps create a redirect to where it would be best directed. Thanks. Bebestbe (talk) 15:56, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

I have never heard of it. If you know what it is, then YOU should create the article. Try to provide a reference also. JRSpriggs (talk) 16:03, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
A stencil array is just an array of stencils, in the meaning as used in finite difference methods. We don't have an article on stencils, but you can look at five-point stencil for an example. I do not think we need an article on stencil arrays. I definitely would be against creating one just because some anonymous person requested one some time ago; who knows what he/she meant. The link you found discusses stencil arrays in the context of Catmull–Clark subdivision surfaces, so if you want to add that material that's where it should go. I don't remember having seen the term stencil array before, but I guess it's used more broadly than in the context of subdivision surfaces. -- Jitse Niesen (talk) 11:21, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Rename of lists

As shown by the bot list, a lot of math lists got renamed. I think the new name is clumsy, and such a big change to established articles should have been discussed. Comments? Oleg Alexandrov (talk) 03:56, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Another awful idea, implemented on a large scale thanks to AWB. siℓℓy rabbit (talk) 04:03, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I wasn't aware that AWB could be used to move pages. Please explain to me how that is done. It would have saved me hours! The Transhumanist 10:30, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
It probably should have been argued first, but I sort of like it. At the moment, the appearance of some of the "Topical outline" articles makes the name a little like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole (for example, Topical outline of arithmetic is less an outline than a list that got stuffed into one section) but there's obvious potential for more advantageous organization which would make the article useful navigationally. The main issue, aside from the quality of the title, is whether it is some kind of POV or OR to classify mathematical topics this way (and for that matter, the previous titles of "Basic topics in..." suffered from a similar problem). This is the stuff of school books, and one could argue that the bot-user (User:The Transhumanist) is making a normative judgement on the various subjects affected. Aside from the obvious improvements in real estate usage, what was the original rationale for having separate articles for "basic" and general topics in each subject? Ryan Reich (talk) 04:34, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
Apparently, this was discussed at the village pump. Jkasd 05:16, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
  • See Portal:Contents/List of topical outlines and Wikipedia:WikiProject Lists of basic topics for the main idea,[1] and see Topical outline of geography for one of the examplar lists that the project is working towards. The rationale for the original name is somewhere in the archives. Basically they're meant to be something like a cross between a core-vocab cheat sheet, a subject-introduction's chapter headings, and a key-concepts portal (or that's how I'd explain them). (Personally, I find their earlier development-stages more elegant, like Topical outline of archaeology, but nothing is perfect ;)
  • As Jkasd says, a few people discussed it at the Pump, and pointers to it were left in a number of locations last week. I think the title change is a minor improvement - the keyword is now at the end, and apparently people were complaining about the old title ("What constitutes 'basic'?"). It also [will] match the title of Category:Topical indexes, which we're (at that same VPR link) discussing moving to a title such as "Index of _____ articles". E.g. moving List of geography topics to Index of geography articles. It's all part of the chaotic stumble towards coherence, centered around Portal:Contents.

[1]. (the project talkpage seems to have been accidentally deleted in one of those page moves. It should be in the history of either Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Lists of basic topics or Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Topical outlines. If an admin could restore it to the second location, that'd be appreciated :)

  • Hopefully that info dump helped someone. :) -- Quiddity (talk) 06:14, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I restored the project talk page. I don't have an opinion about the renaming from basic topics to topic outline. The whole stuff about basic topics lists is a project I don't want to be involved with, but (at the risk of stating the obvious) the list of basic calculus topics, which has now been moved to topical outline of calculus, is not the same as the list of calculus topics; the former only lists the "basic" articles, whatever that means, while the latter lists all articles. -- Jitse Niesen (talk) 11:05, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Hi everyone,

I've stopped by to comment, upon Oleg's request...

I've been working on the set of pages being discussed for almost 3 years, and I am intimately familiar with almost all aspects of them. If you have any additional questions, I will be happy to answer them. But first, I'll begin with the issues discussed above.

The main problem I've been encountering lately with the "basic topics" titles was that a basic list can be extensive if the subject is broad. Broad subjects like geography, history, and countries tend to have extensive lists, evidenced by the tables of contents of introductory-level textbooks on these subjects. Some editors assume extensive = non-basic, and this leads to unnecessary arguments. I felt it was time to abandon "basic" in the titles to avoid further confusion.

The set of "basic topics" pages was created in 2001 by Larry Sanger to use redlinks to spot gaps in Wikipedia's coverage of major subjects. Editors were encouraged to both help build the lists and to look them over for redlinks that interested them, and click on those links and write articles for them. Interest in Wikipedia grew rapidly and its momentum increased, and within a year or two most of the pages turned entirely blue - they were abandoned because they no longer served their original purpose!

I came across them gathering dust in 2005, and found them very useful for finding my way around those subjects. So I added them to the navigation system I was (and still am) working on. (I was called User:Go for it! back then). The set has grown considerably and the format of the pages has been much refined since then, and these pages have become an integral part of both the Contents system and Wikipedia's coverage of the subjects themselves.

Currently, "outline" describes their format and purpose much more accurately than "list of basic topics" does, especially considering that 200+ more pages are being developed to add to the set, one for every country of the World, and these new pages have an even more refined outline format - an extension of the main format, specialized for countries. See topical outline of Japan for an example. So far, 23 country outlines have been produced, and starting July 15th, a major collaboration shall be launched to put the finishing touches on these and complete all the rest. I believe the new titles shall help Wikipedia's readers to more easily find what they are looking for, and help focus developers with respect to what they are building.

Another major reason for the name change is that "outline" just seems more professional and mainstream. I expect that it will attract more attention and respect over time. I apologize for the clumsiness of the word "topical" in the titles. This was a compromise with those who were annoyed by the pun created by using "outline" alone in the titles of the country-related pages. For example, "Outline of Italy" conjures images of a boot, while "Topical outline of Italy" does not. Perhaps in time, readers will prefer that we simplify the titles by dropping "topical".

I hope you've found my explanation helpful.


The Transhumanist 12:44, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Naming of function articles

See Talk:Inverse trigonometric function#Requested move for a discussion as to whether the article should be moved to inverse trigonometric functions, taking a plural name similarly to the existing trigonometric functions article. Input from Wikiproject members would be much appreciated. Andrewa (talk) 11:07, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Last I checked (a long time ago), the appropriate entry in the style manual took a silly position that a plural title should be used only when the word or phrase in question is used ONLY in the plural. That "only" is much to strong. I'd be comfortable with a rule saying the singular should be used unless there's some specific good reason for using the plural (and then just which reasons are "good" could be decided in each case in the same way that other editing decisions are decided). In this case the reason would be that there is only a small number of inverse trigonometric functions. They're not things like elephants or rivers or trucks where you never know when you'll run into another one that's never been seen before. Michael Hardy (talk) 23:05, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Well said. There's been a lot of good input at the article talk page, and the move seems on by strong consensus... which means I've been outvoted in a way, but hey, I think we've got a good decision and I'm glad I raised it here. Assuming the move goes ahead, we should consider generalising this decision in a MOS and/or NC entry IMO. Andrewa (talk) 10:22, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
What would go into that entry that's not already said at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (plurals)? Algebraist 12:36, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps add an explicit mention of functions, or alternatively a more general provision covering both functions and the other mathematical subject areas already covered there. Andrewa (talk) 17:27, 20 June 2008 (UTC)


As announced here, C-Class has been added to the WikiProject ratings. I was not particularly in favour of this addition (nor against it), but now that it has come to pass I'm happy for the WPM to support it if there is no disagreement. It will need some changes to the templates and some input from Carl and VeblenBot, but I'm willing to help out with the transition. Geometry guy 23:31, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

This would be a good time to solicit comments on the math rating system in general. To everyone: what things do you like about the current setup? What do you dislike? What can be improved or added? A good starting place to look at what the current system generates is Wikipedia:WikiProject_Mathematics/Wikipedia_1.0/Table. — Carl (CBM · talk) 14:11, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I think the current setup is fine. I think work is aimless and ineffective without goals, and goals are meaningless without evaluating progress. The assessment setup has helped direct my efforts to getting a few more FAs for math, as well as even more emphatically moving away from creating dictionary definition stubs.
Is there are any formal group going around and reevaluating articles? Would it be possible to have a bot collect something like: how many edits since last reassessment, how many days since last reassessment?
To me it seems like we only currently need FA, GA, B, and Stub. These are the basic divisions on how much effort is required to improve an article. Anyone can improve a stub with a google search (if only we had an army). It probably takes some sort of specialist (math or wiki) to casually improve a B article, but a dedicated team of average people can take B to GA. GA to FA looks like like a dedicated team of specialists, so such an effort needs more organization.
The other distinctions don't seem to impact how work should be organized, but are more just sort of a "grade" to help people feel their work is being looked at... so they are ineffective unless we regularly look at them!
The "most viewed" pages are also very nice as far as importance. JackSchmidt (talk) 16:44, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Copyedit request for group

I just wanted to tell that group (mathematics) is in preparation for a more or less soon FAC. As such, it requires a thorough copyedit. I asked also the WP:LoCE, but if anybody around feels inclined to look at the text with a pair of fresh eyes (and a math-mind behind), I'd be grateful. Thanks very much for any help whatsoever! (I also posted to WP:LoCE).

Obviously, any content-related suggestions or criticism is also welcome. Jakob.scholbach (talk) 20:36, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Please, please, please...

...participate in the peer review of the problem of Apollonius! It would be the first FA for geometry, and it's a beautiful, classical problem that even school-children can appreciate and its application to trilateration is a forerunner of modern solutions to finding positions in GPS. Also, the related Apollonian gasket was the first fractal described in print, a forerunner of the Sierpiński triangle. Thank you very much for helping me bring this article to FA, Willow (talk) 22:16, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

What is a valid external link?

I tried to add external links to some Wikipedia theorem pages, for example,

on the page for Fermat's Last Theorem. These links were removed, with an implication that I was spamming, or at least exploiting Wikipedia for my own self-promotion. "There's no evidence on the site that it's not entirely Robin Whitty's idea and selection" (my Wiki name is a pseudonymn).

Theorem of the Day is an academic project which tries to bring beautiful mathematics to a wider public without loss of rigour. Well, it is all my idea and selection. But having selected Fermat's Last Theorem and done my best to describe it in a way that can enlighten a non-mathematician without irritating a professional, I don't see why it should not be a valid external link. Many theorem pages have links to Cut-the-knot by Alexander Bogomolny; as far as I know this is entirely his idea and selection; ditto for Numericana by Gérard Michon. Granted their sites are out-of-sight better than mine but that doesn't mean that Theorem of the Day isn't just the kind of external link that some Wikipedia users will find valuable. I should add that its content is vetted by experts whenever it falls outside my areas of expertise (which is usually), as can be seen from my Acknowledgements page.

I risk being told that this is a personal rant which has no place in the Maths Project discussion. So I am happy to invite general remarks on how mathematical links, references and notes are to be judged. Charleswallingford (talk) 06:26, 25 June 2008 (UTC)

I appreciate your nice site and selfless work in creating it, but creating a number of links to it from WP will attract attention. Please see Wikipedia:Conflict of interest. Jmath666 (talk) 06:48, 25 June 2008 (UTC)

I would say "exploiting Wikipedia for my own self promotion" is a bit harsher than the way I would put it, but it's not far off from what you've been doing. You just stated that your site is not as good as the other named sites but you think all these Wikipedia articles should link to your site because it is so great. Well, you're not really in a good position to determine that. Let other people decide that. Continue to work on your site. I commend you for trying to "bring beautiful mathematics to a wider audience". But please don't continue to promote your site in this manner. You've already been given links by Arthur Rubin to the external link and spam guidelines, which clearly explain everything. --C S (talk) 06:55, 25 June 2008 (UTC)

Well, maybe it was a bit boorish of me to link from 20 theorems instead of being more selective. Still I did genuinely hope to add value to the pages concerned (some of them were stubs). Anyway, enough self-justification. I have a new theorm to prepare (Erdős and Wilson: almost all graphs are class-1 edge chromatic. It is missing from the relevant Wikipedia article so I will go and add it by way of penance. And don't worry, I will leave it for somebody else to link that page to mine!) Charleswallingford (talk) 09:43, 25 June 2008 (UTC) 09:41, 25 June 2008 (UTC)
The Moufang loop talk page link seemed appropriate for the talk page. Probably better than linking to your site from articles is to use your site to more quickly find other standard external links or reliable sources. In other words, using your site as a resource is a good idea which should improve the encyclopedia and help you to improve your site (imagine you are Joe Random wikipedia editor searching the net for information and you found TOTD). I think this is what you are talking about doing for Edge coloring, so I think you've already figured out how to resolve the conflict of interest. JackSchmidt (talk) 14:59, 25 June 2008 (UTC)

Kernel cleanup

Should kernel (mathematics) become a disambig page? There was a complaint that the main usage is 4th on the list (a few pages down). If this was a disambig age, being fourth would not be a problem. Also in my experience (at a PDE heavy institution) the main usage of kernel is the one from integral operators, such as a heat kernel or green's function.

Once we have a sane disambiguation page (either Kernel (disambiguation) or Kernel (mathematics)), then we should probably go through the kernel articles and make sure appropriate links are made. I've added some links to kernel (algebra), but it is missing kernel (category theory) and probably others (hard to tell, since I think the disambig page is also missing some, and certainly kernel (mathematics) is missing many). JackSchmidt (talk) 16:28, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

I think it would be preferrable to have one good article covering all the meanings of kernel related to f(x)=0. The only article which presents substantial additional material is kernel (matrix), parts of which (such as numerical calculations) could be summarized in this article. The terrible amount of redundancy could be amended if material from sections like Kernel (algebra)#Ring homomorphisms would be moved to ring homomorphism, in this case (which, by the way, also already contains material on the kernel). Similarly, all instances of "X/ker (f) \cong im(f)" should be centered in Isomorphism theorem and so on. Jakob.scholbach (talk) 16:47, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
This seems reasonable, and would cut down on the confusion of analytic kernels versus algebraic kernels. Should the other algebraic kernel articles redirect to sections of the one true algebraic kernel, or to their associated homomorphism pages? JackSchmidt (talk) 18:07, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Another question is what to do with the (related) category theory and set theory/universal algebra definitions. Since both are quite abstract it might be best to keep them separate, e.g. kernel (algebra), kernel (category theory), kernel (equivalence relation). --Hans Adler (talk) 18:14, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

@Jack: I would redirect to the kernel page. The homomorphism pages should just have a (reasonably brief, but complete) definition of the kernel in that specific case. Anything else (which is unspecific to groups/rings/blabla) should be put to kernel.

@Hans: Again, a good survey article should not omit the more abstract kernels. I guess, they deserve a little section in the survey article. Anything which does not fit there spacewise goes to a subpage.

@everybody: Why is the kernel in PDE also called kernel? If there is a reason (which I assume), this should be covered in the survey article, too. Alas, die Kunst ist lang und kurz ist unser Leben (art is long, and our life is short). Jakob.scholbach (talk) 18:48, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

(P.S. BTW, phrases (from the lead of kernel (algebra)) like "the kernel of a homomorphism measures the degree to which the homomorphism fails to be injective" are probably exactly what the engineer above is complaining about. Why not write "the kernel is defined by elements mapping to zero" and treat injectivity later?) Jakob.scholbach (talk) 18:52, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Changed into DAB, and replaced wording that would be incomprehensible to anyone but a specialist (that belongs to the individual pages, if anywhere) by something that may not be so exact but is hopefully understandable. About a year ago I have moved several nullspace articles into kernel articles, but I have stopped short of such radical cut at that time. Also, I have copied this discussion to Talk:kernel (mathematics). Jmath666 (talk) 05:07, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

Tandem collaboration pinboard and FA density

I have (yet another) idea about the collaborative aspects of WP, and esp. the math project. I'd like to hear other's view about the following: what kind of collaboration mode (if any) do you guy's like most? I'm just thinking that it could be nice if there was a message board for messages such as:

"I'm craving for a tandem editor who is willing to join in to collaborate substantially on ..."

Sometimes, recently, for me personally the working-together attitude of the project is a little bit underrepresented. There are tons of articles which have potential, but do require lot of work, at times frightening. Divided by 2 (or 3 or 4...) this would be much better. From a glance at the math articles rating table compared to the general counter, we are really underrepresented in terms of FA articles (MATH: 21/3783 [many of which are biographies, btw], general: 2,106/2,430,018). Given the amount of short, yet meaningful and necessary short "definition only"-articles in math and other factors, I know this counter does not say too much, but I feel this is an issue we should think about. Jakob.scholbach (talk) 18:04, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

I think this page is the right place to ask for such help. I got interested in Problem of Apollonius because of a note here, and that led me to help with Emmy Noether as well. In the same way, you asked here for feedback on Group (mathematics). Now, I haven't seen anyone post a message asking for tandem editing as you suggest, but I'm sure that if you asked you could get others interested.
Oh, and regarding the number of FAs: According to Wikipedia:Featured_article_statistics (as well as your statistics), the current percentage of FAs is 0.08666%. The current percentage of math FAs is 0.55511%. Taking out the biography articles, we're at 0.29257%. And according to Wikipedia:Good_article_statistics, the current percentage of GAs is 0.1771%, whereas the math project is at 1.1631% (counting biographies) or 0.8484% (not counting biographies). So it looks like we're ahead by quite a bit! Ozob (talk) 23:23, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
Oops, I must have been blind with the numbers. Sorry about that. Jakob.scholbach (talk) 07:03, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
It is difficult to compare like-with-like here. Jakob is quoting figures for assessed mathematics articles (21 FAs vs 3783 assessed, giving 0.56%). The total number of maths articles collected by Mathbot is now 19606 (so FAs are 0.1%, or about half that without biographies).
However, it might be more appropriate to compare our assessed figure with assessed articles project-wide, where there were recently 2269 FAs out of 1318582 assessed articles (0.17%). Adding in featured lists gives 2674 (0.2%).
Conclusion? WPM is fairly comparable with the rest of the encyclopedia, but is doing generally better with its assessed articles. Since we don't assess articles unless we can do so carefully (we don't use automated assessment), this is perhaps not too surprising. Geometry guy 20:16, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Mathematics GA reassessments

Editors with long memories may recall an activity called GA sweeps. This is a game where everyone nominates their favourite article at WP:GAN and the editor with the closest guess for how long it will be before any of them get reviewed wins all the credit.

No just kidding. The aim of the game is actually to check that all pre-August 27th 2007 GAs meet the criteria. I offered to look at the maths ones and checked they were all okay apart from five, one of which I delisted. That was last October.

I haven't returned to the rest partly because delisting is a joyless activity, and partly because I didn't want to be associated with a reassessement process in which reviewers would drop in on an article, say "Not enough inlines. Delist. Thanks for all your hard work" and promptly disappear, leaving no useful review or advice on how to get the article back up to GA standards. Fortunately, this culture is now changing: to increase accountability, GAN reviews are stored permanently on a dedicated review subpage, and I'm now extending this system to reassessments. It is amazing how such a spotlight leads reviewers to do a better job.

Anyway, back to the maths GAs. The remaining four are Exponentiation, Hilbert space, Ordinal number and Order theory. I've started on the last of these, as it is the easiest, being sufficiently far from meeting the criteria that it really has to be delisted, unless a flurry of activity converts it into a triumph in a matter of days. Nevertheless, I've provided a very detailed review, which I hope will be helpful to future editors, not just insulting to past ones :-).

Hilbert space and Ordinal number will be harder, because the issues are more subtle. However, these have a number of editors working on them, so I have some confidence that they can be fixed so that they still meet the GA criteria. As for Exponentiation, well, to be honest, I'm not in a rush to check it, so if someone else wants to, be my guest! Geometry guy 20:56, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Excellent job — even given the disappointment of a GA delisting, your in-depth review of Order theory seems like it should be very helpful to the editors of that article. I wonder how possible it would be to extend similar reviewing efforts to some of our B+-class articles in the hope of inspiring their editors to bring them up to GA or A quality. It would probably be helpful for our B-class articles as well, but there are too many of them to hope for any kind of thorough coverage. Speaking of which, if an editor believes that an article has been significantly improved since it was last assessed, is there any process for requesting a reassessment? —David Eppstein (talk) 21:20, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. I hope I will have time to review/reassess either Hilbert space or Ordinal number this weekend. I'm not optimistic about the ability of this project to drive content improvement and review. While small groups of editors from the project do fantastic work (I've witnessed recently the tremendous improvements to Group (mathematics), for example), the project as a whole does not appear to be catalysing this. For instance A-Class review is virtually moribund, as is the collaboration of the month. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe the project is too large and broad now that mathematics content has expanded so much. Geometry guy 20:00, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

Proof mining

The stub article titled proof mining could certainly use work, perhaps especially some examples. Can someone help? Michael Hardy (talk) 23:22, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

PS: If, perchance, you expand the article to half the length of War and Peace, don't forget to delete the "stub" notice. Too often people compete, if inadvertently, for "Wikipedia's longest 'stub'". Michael Hardy (talk) 23:22, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

article difficulty level

I know that many others, and I, have raised this issue before, but I'd like to revive WikiProject General Audience. I understand the need for mathematical precision, and the concerns that have been expressed about "dumbing down" of articles, but I still think that most mathematics and physics articles are written at a level well beyond that of a typical Internet user, and Wikipedia is a top search-engine hit for many topics.

In order for WikiProject General Audience to be successful, it needs to be populated by editors who have a solid comprehension of technical subjects, preferably experts but at least users who have taken upper-level college math courses.

Incidentally, the guideline about providing specific reasons when applying the {{technical}} template on a talk page seems applicable only if an article is written for an audience with a rigorous undergraduate education; some articles are so advanced that they are completely incomprehensible. (talk) 07:23, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

We have had similar discussions numerous times. Some topics can be presented in a generally accessible way, and unfortunately not all of them are. That's a problem and should be fixed. Other topics are completely inaccessible to anyone without a degree in mathematics. If you see this as a problem, it can only be "fixed" by either deleting the article altogether or rewriting it in a way that will make it completely useless to anyone who might be remotely interested in it (people with a degree in mathematics, with a specialisation in the appropriate field). If you don't give any concrete examples it's not clear if you are talking about articles like polynomial or articles like C-minimal theory. Both articles are top Google hits for their respective titles. The first correctly tries to address a general audience, the second correctly makes no such attempt. Most mathematics and physics articles are of the second kind. The most frequently viewed mathematics and physics articles are typically of the first type. --Hans Adler (talk) 09:15, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Hans Adler - some topics just are inherently difficult to understand without the necessary background. The appropriate way to address this is to provide links to articles that provide that necessary background (and these articles may in turn contain links to other, more basic articles etc. etc.). I am all in favour of clear writing, but it is unrealistic to expect a general audience to be able to understand every Wikipedia article at first reading. This is often presented as an issue that is specific to mathematics and physics articles, but specialist terminology appears in many other fields. A few random examples:
  • Chemistry - "...involves the nucleophilic addition of a ketone enolate to an aldehyde to form a β-hydroxy ketone, or "aldol" (aldehyde + alcohol)..." - from aldol reaction.
  • Law - "Tortious interference with contract rights can occur where the tortfeasor convinces a party to breach the contract against the plaintiff, or where the tortfeasor disrupts the ability of one party to perform his obligations under the contract, thereby preventing the plaintiff from receiving the performance promised." - from tortious interference.
  • Sport - "Only one runner may occupy a base at a time; if two runners are touching a base at once, the trailing runner is in jeopardy and will be out if tagged, unless he was forced--in which case the lead runner is out when tagged for failing to reach his force base."; "The goal of each batter is to become a base runner himself (by a base hit, a base on balls, being hit by the pitch, a fielding error, or fielder's choice) or to help move other base runners along (by another base hit, a sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, or hit and run)." - from baseball rules.
  • Philosophy - "Monads are non-extended, soul-like, metaphysical simples. Every body at the phenomenal level is a representation of a monad. These monads have no causal relationship to one another, or to any other monads, and the intrinsic properties of each Monad unfold in accordance with their 'Appetitions.'" - from monadism.
In each case a reader of average intelligence and sufficient patience could unpack the meaning by reading links, links from links etc. - but it requires time and effort. There is no way to avoid this. Gandalf61 (talk) 10:22, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

I agree with what Hans and Gandalf said. There are other factors that affect articles like polynomial, which are unfortunate side effects of encyclopedia writing and the wiki method.
  1. Professional writing about elementary topics requires discretion in not saying all that could be said about the topic. For example, an introductory algebra book on polynomials would not go into any depth about what polynomials are, and would probably not mention at all the possibility of polynomials over an arbitrary field. It would avoid using common terminology such as polynomial ring. The author would intentionally not cover everything in order to create an accessible introduction. Because we're writing an encyclopedia, we can't simply ignore the more advanced aspects of a topic in this way. We can try to push the more advanced aspects to the bottom of the article, but they often influence the lede as well, which makes it appear less accessible.
  2. The discretion necessary for writing accessibly requires a great deal of perspective. Not all of our editors have sufficient perspective to write a broadly accessible but still complete article. Some editors erroneously believe they understand a subject when they really have only a basic knowledge, and then insist that it be covered here exactly as they learned it. (There must be a name for the fallacy that the way a person learned something initially is the way it really is).
  3. Because our articles are written by committee, it is very difficult to get agreement for an elementary article that isn't a "kitchen soup" in which every aspect of the topic is covered from every angle. This makes it difficult to start with just the elementary aspects and move to the more difficult ones, because the committee doesn't agree on how to cover the elementary aspects. Too many chefs...
For reasons like these, I often take very pragmatic compromises about article quality, and accept articles that are "clear enough", because it's simply too difficult to find agreement for a truly great article on an elementary topic such as polynomial or function. This isn't an issue unique to mathematics articles. — Carl (CBM · talk) 11:34, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
The WikiProject seems based on a faulty premise: that experts have the time to work on making articles accessible, and the only reason this doesn't happen is that they have no idea how to write in an accessible manner. The truth is to the contrary. Experts are busy. And they do know how to write well. But don't get discouraged just because of me...go ahead and maybe things will work out. By the way, the guideline is designed that way on purpose so only people that know if something actually is wrong with the article can tag. So people who have no clue shouldn't be tagging articles. I don't tag articles saying they need references when I have no idea if the article needs more or not. Why is it ok for someone who doesn't have the background to know if the material is being presented badly or not to just slap on a tag saying the material is incomprehensible and needs to be rewritten? --C S (talk) 11:24, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
Indeed, to push my argument above: the issue isn't that experts don't know how to write well, the issue is that the system in which we are writing doesn't give any individual the editorial discretion necessary for excellent mathematical writing. — Carl (CBM · talk) 11:34, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
To Gandalf61: Your legal example about "Tortious interference" is not an example of a difficult concept. It is an example of the use of jargon to exclude people not in the in-crowd. It can be translated to normal English as: "If Alice and Bob have a binding agreement, and Charlie persuades Bob to violate it or prevents Bob from being able to fulfill his obligation, then Charlie has injured Alice and she can sue him for damages.". JRSpriggs (talk) 17:37, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
But the jargon used in law has specific meanings, usually determined by statute or precedent. In the same way, the word group, as used in abstract algebra, has a specific meaning which is not very hard to understand, but which is hard to express without giving the whole definition of a group. Some statements about groups can be made in very simple terms, but if you want to be precise, then you need jargon.
I think this WikiProject has good intentions, and I think it's good to be reminded every once in a while that we should try to write for a general audience, but we mathematicians—like every group of specialists!—need our jargon. (How would you phrase Atiyah-Singer index theorem without a lot of jargon? Is it even possible?) Maybe it would be more helpful for the WikiProject to try to find specific examples of articles that they think could be made less technical? Ozob (talk) 20:18, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

"Simple English" wikipedia was created expressly for the purpose of making articles accessible to unsophisticated readers. To the extent that this is possible to do at all, I think all efforts to write widely accessible (but, inevitably, non-comprehensive) articles should be focussed there, and not channeled through yet another wiki-project. Arcfrk (talk) 05:08, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Was it really for unsophisticated readers, or for those whose knowledge of English is unsophisticated (but who may be sophisticated in other languages)? Michael Hardy (talk) 20:28, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
In reply to your question, "Why is it ok for someone who doesn't have the background to know if the material is being presented badly or not to just slap on a tag saying the material is incomprehensible and needs to be rewritten?" The answer is simply that adding the {{technical}} tag does not say that an article is written badly, but rather, is what it says: a request for the article to be made more accessible to the audience of a general encyclopædia. I cannot presume to say whether such articles are written badly, but as a lay reader of average education I can say whether an article is:
  • completely incomprehensible, or
  • requires more background information, so that users don't have to keep clicking on different articles to gain a basic understanding, or
  • merely requires jargon to be defined, or
  • is understandable, with effort.
I might also add that the {{technical}} tag is normally placed on talk pages, thus making it unobtrusive. I am sorry if I somehow implied that "experts don't know how to write well" or by adding the {{technical}} tag to some articles, I somehow implied that articles on subjects beyond my knowledge are "badly written"; however, you should not require readers to understand a subject before they are allowed to tag the article (on its talk page) as not understandable. (talk) 03:10, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
I think the issue that is being discussed has nothing to do with the simple English wikipedia. The problem is that many of the math articles assume WAY too much background from the reader (like a math PH.D). This isn't about making the math articles accessible to people who aren't fluent in English but to intelligent native speakers. A college student or even high schooler should be able to learn something from the articles but many of them don't give an introduction such that this is possible. Jason Quinn (talk) 19:53, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Which articles do you have in mind? — Carl (CBM · talk) 20:13, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Same question, but more specific: which articles actually assume you need a Ph.D.? Can someone name a few of those articles? Michael Hardy (talk) 20:32, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm glad you suggested pointing out an article, because there are TONS of math articles on SIMPLE topics that are COMPLETELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE. I am in a PhD engineering program and I have NO CLUE what math articles on what should be relatively simple subjects are talking about! Ok, here goes, random articles I am picking off the top of my head right now. determinant - "For a fixed positive integer n, there is a unique determinant function for the n×n matrices over any commutative ring R. In particular, this function exists when R is the field of real or complex numbers." I have learned about determinants maybe 20 times over and over again in my education, and "commutative ring" was never mentioned. kernel - "The definition of kernel takes various forms in various contexts. But in all of them, the kernel of a homomorphism is trivial (in a sense relevant to that context) if and only if the homomorphism is injective. The fundamental theorem on homomorphisms (or first isomorphism theorem) is a theorem, again taking various forms, that applies to the quotient algebra defined by the kernel." Again, I've learned about the kernel MULTIPLE times, and I've never heard the words "injective" or "homomorphism" or "isomorphism". It's not that I can't look these things up, but without enormous effort, the Wikipedia article is really opaque. When I learned about the kernel (in a linear algebra context), the explanation was really simple and intuitive and there was no reference to homomorphisms. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:48, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
I completely agree with you that that's certainly not how determinants should be initially introduced in an encyclopedia article about them. But I'd call that advanced undergraduate level. I'm not sure that such cases can be dealt with other than one a case-by-case basis. Michael Hardy (talk) 23:20, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
… and this is not how they have been initially introduced in the article in question:
In algebra, a determinant is a function depending on n that associates a scalar, det(A), to every n×n square matrix A. The fundamental geometric meaning of a determinant is as the scale factor for volume when A is regarded as a linear transformation. Determinants are important both in calculus, where they enter the substitution rule for several variables, and in multilinear algebra.
Seems much better, does it not? Similarly, the article kernel (linear algebra) gives a decent explanation of a kernel of matrix or a linear operator, while a long list of other entries, starting with the disambiguation page kernel itself, guide the reader towards multiple other meanings of the term, including a dizzying number in mathematics alone. However, I'll be the first to admit that the main article on Linear algebra is in a very, very poor shape.
I am afraid that this is just another case of a person with wounded pride spilling his or her frustration, rather than a bona fide attempt to improve the quality of mathematics writing. Distorting the facts does real damage to one's credibility. More broadly, after observing and analyzing a lithany of almost identical complaints about "incomprehensible mathematics articles on Wikipedia" I came to the the sad conclusion that the vast majority of the people registring them are writing from the perspective of someone with overinflated self-assessment, rather than someone with an inquisitive mind who is willing to learn:
I am very, very smart, but I cannot grasp everything in this article – IT'S WIKIPEDIA's FAULT!,
as opposed to
I knew the basics, but I had no idea that the subject was so broad – THANK YOU, WIKIPEDIA!.
I am especially amused by those who insist that they have learned a topic over and over again, and some (ususally, fairly basic) fact or feature never came up. What does it say about the quality of their education?
Even more ominously, some of the people in the first category do real damage to fundamental articles, by rewriting them to eliminate any trace of the theory they do not happen to know about or do not fully understand, and insisting that their approach is superior – this happened at Integral, Calculus and several related articles. Arcfrk (talk) 05:52, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
No, it's not just the average engineer's fault if they are confused by our treatment of kernels, just like it's not just the average office worker's fault if they can't work with Linux. E.g. Microsoft is actively hiding certain advanced features of its operating system from the user. To find them, you have to click on an "Extended" button in a dialogue, and in the resulting dialogue you have to choose the "Advanced" tab and click another "Extended" button. Annoying as hell when you know what you are looking for, but it prevents clueless users from accidentally screwing their system.
We, like Linux, are sometimes doing the opposite. There is one meaning of "kernel" that the vast majority of our readers will be after: kernel (matrix). But this is the fifth option offered under kernel for mathematical meanings, the fourth section in kernel (mathematics), and it's not even linked from kernel (algebra).
As to determinant, I agree that an engineer shouldn't really complain about that, although the first paragraph should use the word "number" instead of "scalar", and the second paragraph should start with something like "More generally, …" to make it plain that it can be ignored by those who don't understand it. --Hans Adler (talk) 07:56, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Over-inflated self-assessment? I take exception to that characterization. Those of us who complain about incomprehensible mathematics articles acknowledge that we are of average education (e.g., we may be undergraduate students, or may have a bachelor's degree or even post-baccalaureate work in a non-technical subject). I admit that it is humbling to see how much smarter many editors are than one's self, but I want general encyclopædias to be accessible to general audiences. In a nutshell: every engineer ought to understand this stuff, but not everybody who reads Wikipedia is an engineer. (talk) 03:24, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
I agree that "over-inflated self-assessment" is too hard on you, but it certainly applies to a lot of people. As Arcfrk said, often when people don't understand an article they think it's written badly; and often they're wrong. (Just go looking through talk pages) It's not a matter of some editors being smarter than others. It's that the underlying concepts are hard to understand and hard to communicate. Everyone mentions spectral sequences in this regard; I think this also applies to sheaves. Nobody should expect to understand these concepts right away.
I also agree that some of our articles are poorly written. This is just the way Wikipedia is sometimes; you can improve the articles yourself, suggest them for Collaboration of the Month, check PlanetMath instead, or even look up what you need in a textbook. Someday every article will be excellent, but we're not there yet. Ozob (talk) 17:22, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps we should focus on the reason that I came here, which is to recruit editors who know more about the material than I do to join WikiProject General Audience. Thanks. (talk) 01:22, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
It takes a lot of specific knowledge or mathematical maturity to understand articles like spectral sequence. (Graduate level in this case, not PhD level, but I don't think this fine distinction is intended here.) While some lay readers may complain about such an article because of a misconception, e.g. that it is about a mathematical abstraction of rainbows, the mere fact that this article is not accessible to the general public is not a defect, and certainly nothing that should be fixed. That's not to say it shouldn't be made as comprehensible as possible. What is much more problematic, in my opinion, is articles like average, which although very elementary from a mathematician's point of view can easily be taken for PhD level by the general public. The problem here is that the article generally doesn't take a didactic approach, and that it explains concepts such as geometric mean using notations that will scare many readers. It's a problem because these (boring) articles get vastly more hits than those we are here for. --Hans Adler (talk) 20:58, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Often I suspect technical writers forget the difference between knowing the material an article is covering and knowing what material an article is covering.
One thing I am trying to do in wikipedia articles is ensure that a 12 year old can determine what the article is about. This is basically always attainable, and very useful both for readers and editors. A stub sorter should always be able to determine what sort of stub this article would have started as, at least better than simply {{stub}}. Someone working on WP:CATP should always be able to assign a reasonable, if slightly broad, category to an article without seeing the categories currently on it. These editors should be able to do this only reading the first paragraph of the article.
Every mathematics article we touch should have a lead that at least informs the reader that this is a mathematics article, and hopefully narrows it down to one of the larger divisions of mathematics that studies it. It should give a rough idea of *who* cares about it and *why*.
If some 12 year old had to present a report on spectral sequences, our article should help them do it. "Hello class, today I am going to talk about spectral sequences. These are an advanced idea in mathematics. They were invented during the second world war, in order to understand a type of geometry called topology. They are now used by mathematicians and physicists to solve hard problems. There are many books with whole chapters on them, but they are usually only read by people who already have a college degree. Even then, many mathematicians think they are very difficult."
Similarly, the article should be useful for the 16 to 18 year olds trying to decide if they want to study science and mathematics (or presenting a report to the class about how exciting such study is). Roughly speaking, an encyclopedia is a ridiculous place to learn mathematics, but it is a wonderful place to figure out which pieces of mathematics you might want to learn or to give a report on what sort of mathematics is known. JackSchmidt (talk) 22:18, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
I agree that there is an accessibility problem and I'm completely in favor of making articles more readable to morons like me (could you guess that I'm an engineer too?). I'm not remotely in favor of making articles simpler, as there is the tragic loss of mathematic accuracy and the likes. However, I think that a lot of math articles could be made way more readable if:
  • Excessively compact notation is avoided, or at least clearly defined prior to use. Things like instead of , the first notation is criminal in my opinion.
  • Anything that may be obscure that can be quickly but aptly explained is explained.
  • Linking words like diffeomorphism is important and usually done, but when used in a "simpler" context such words should have a quick explanation, eg "suppose is a diffeomorphism (an invertible, smooth, structure preserving one-to-one function)". The linked word without explanation will set the reader on a journey to understand, in order, diffeomorphism, isomorphism, bijection, and manifold. Using parenthesis gives a quick definition that is clear, though pretty weak.
Ben pcc (talk) 17:33, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
Criminal? Really? That notation is perfectly standard. I could walk to my bookshelf and pull down at least ten of the most common textbooks around and find that notation. I do agree about the "defined prior to first use" part. But I don't know about your characterization of "excessively compact notation". Is this the only example, or did you have something else in mind too? I'm also not wild about parenthetically defining standard terms like diffeomorphism. We have a beautiful system of wikilinking that accomplishes the same task without the admittedly "weak" crutch of explaining everything in parentheses. VectorPosse (talk) 23:48, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
I think the parenthetical definitions are a good idea, actually. They allow someone unfamiliar with the term to read the article and get the main ideas without interrupting the flow. And, if you actually go to the diffeomorphism article, even only to read the first sentence, you'll see that the explanation you get there is not the same as the one Ben pcc used in his parenthesis, and depends on other similarly technical concepts such as differentiable manifolds. Even for readers who have already seen diffeomorphisms, it may be helpful to remind them. Part of the reason some of our articles are hard to read is that they're dense with wikilinked terms that each take a whole article to explain properly — there's nowhere to start reading because each term leads to another of the same type. If the parenthetical definitions are provided, they can help jumpstart the process of reading the articles by giving readers a sense of what the terms mean and what their key properties are while of course providing the wikilinks for readers who need more detail or rigor. —David Eppstein (talk) 00:09, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
I agree. Quickly reminding the reader what a term means is frequently more useful than a wikilink. A statement like, "Recall that a diffeomorphism is smooth, so the function f we constructed above is a homeomorphism but not a diffeomorphism," is much more clear than "f is a homeomorphism but not a diffeomorphism," because it explains why something is true, and in a way that a wikilink would not help with. And the why is almost always the interesting part. Ozob (talk) 17:27, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

best practices

Perhaps we can turn this into a more productive discussion by talking about some best practices. A few essays on this topic are already listed on WP:WPM. I have always thought that we should make sure the first paragraph of an article's lede is accessible to a reader with insufficient background. But that reader may need to accept that they don't understand every single word, or that they don't really understand the topic after reading only one paragraph. I think the first paragraphs of average, determinant and spectral sequence all do a reasonable job of giving a one-sentence overview of the topic. Certainly these initial paragraphs give enough information for stub sorting and categorization purposes. Are there other simple, effective practices that people are fond of? — Carl (CBM · talk) 14:26, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

I also do some new pages patrol, and so one of my "best practices" for mathematics articles is "ensure that this article cannot be speedy deleted".
  • For instance, ensure that the article does not qualify for robotic transfer to wiktionary because it consists only of a dictionary definition, WP:DICDEF.
  • Already mentioned, ensure it does not meet {{db-context}} by not indicating what basic facet of human experience to which it is relevant, usually by "In the area of mathematics known as blahblah, especially in the subfields foo and bar," to satisfy WP:LEAD#Establish context and give a reasonably uniform feel to our articles.
  • Since unsourced controversial material may be deleted WP:V, ensure that all articles have a least one reference. To be blunt, our articles are embarrassing on this front. With tools like zeteo and {{MathSciNet}} it is trivial to build up a basic citation library of standard textbooks. Because we are not supposed to do original research, we should be writing from references. At any rate, this is usually only a speedy deletion on biographies.
Beyond ensuring the difference between a stub and a speedy deletion candidate, one can ensure the difference between an unenjoyable, nigh useless stub and a reasonable stub by including:
  • Brief history (who studied it, when, could even cite a paper)
  • Motivating examples (math is not created ex nihilo, what concept does this one refine)
  • Non-examples or generalizations.
In cataloging and on wiktionary, there are "exemplar" pages. They are usually chosen to be not particularly complicated or weird but such that virtually everything is shown there. For example "fish" and "cows" are exemplar animals for LCSH, and if you need to do something for an animal you check both the animal you've got and fish or cows to see how to do it. We could have exemplar Stub, B, GA, and FA article (revisions) to give people basic models to work from. In some sense, WP:WikiProject Mathematics/Wikipedia 1.0/A-Class mathematics articles does this, but I fear that the ratings might change in reality but not on our pages. In WP:WikiProject Mathematics/Wikipedia 1.0/Grading scheme, specific article versions are given, but again the standards themselves change. At any rate, these pages should be more prominent in the "how to contribute" section of our project. JackSchmidt (talk) 17:11, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
But that reader may need to accept that they don't understand every single word, or that they don't really understand the topic after reading only one paragraph. Unfortunately, that ability is highly correlated with "mathematical maturity". The confidence to accept such things, I would expect, would come with an ability to dig out what one can while ignoring what is not understandable, and also an ability to go back and re-read using what one has absorbed to try and pull out even more information. I think if you investigate the cases of when people complain that something is highly esoteric or "requires a Ph.D.", you will often find this is because there is a "big picture" explanation given where it is not possible to understand every little thing. (I'm talking only about the cases when a lot of people have actually worked on improving the article...not the ones that truly suck, of course!) Most people don't learn to absorb information in the "mature" kind of way we take for granted without some serious training. Most people have to feel that they do understand every single word, even when they don't because it's not possible from what is written. Therein lies part of the secret to good expository writing for the layman. --C S (talk) 02:35, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
I think the problem we're running into is that we're trying to communicate mathematical objects in words; words are fundamentally different from math, and it's very hard to really convey the essence of mathematics in words. (I remember once trying to give a calculus lecture and being lost for words. Finally I had to announce, "I'm having trouble with the English language." The students thought that was really funny.) I think this is part of why mathematical writing sounds so peculiar. There's an impulse to write a Bourbaki-style definition-theorem-proof exposition; not everyone is inclined to be as extreme as Bourbaki (though I know I am), but that impulse is there because that's the language we've all adopted for communicating concepts that really don't translate to words well. Now, that language has its advantages (For instance, I can't speak French, but I can read mathematics written in French) but people who aren't working mathematicians don't speak that language. The only group of non-mathematicians I'm aware of who also speak this language are theoretical physicists and theoretical computer scientists, and that's not true of all of them. When people complain that an article requires a Ph.D., they might be right not because the article is difficult but because it's written in math.
I don't really know how to avoid this problem. We speak math because it's the best means we have of expressing the mathematical concepts we have. Some people are good at it (Serre and Milnor) and others are not (I have a very famous person in mind whom I won't name). We can't write adequate mathematics articles without writing at least parts of them in math. But we don't have to write everything in math, and that suggests another best practice:
  • Target the first paragraph of the article at the mathematically incompetent.
If you can make the first paragraph comprehensible to an undergraduate English major, or a high school history teacher, or a bus driver, or someone like that, then it's probably at the level we want. Ozob (talk) 16:54, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Rename proposal for the lists of basic topics

This project's subject has a number of pages in the set of Lists of basic topics.

See the proposal at the Village pump to change the names of all those pages.

The Transhumanist 10:13, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Changes to the WP:1.0 assessment scheme

As you may have heard, we at the Wikipedia 1.0 Editorial Team recently made some changes to the assessment scale, including the addition of a new level. The new description is available at WP:ASSESS.

  • The new C-Class represents articles that are beyond the basic Start-Class, but which need additional references or cleanup to meet the standards for B-Class.
  • The criteria for B-Class have been tightened up with the addition of a rubric, and are now more in line with the stricter standards already used at some projects.
  • A-Class article reviews will now need more than one person, as described here.

Each WikiProject should already have a new C-Class category at Category:C-Class_articles. If your project elects not to use the new level, you can simply delete your WikiProject's C-Class category and clarify any amendments on your project's assessment/discussion pages. The bot is already finding and listing C-Class articles.

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Finite element method

A newbie has moved (via cut and paste) the article Finite element method to a new article Finite element methods. I don't know whether it is worth the effort to do this properly, or if it should be left as a cut'n'paste job, but I thought I should bring it to the attention of the project. siℓℓy rabbit (talk) 13:54, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

Actually, the new article Finite element methods is a merge of Finite element method and Finite element analysis. I can't be bothered at the moment to fix it, but the plural in the new article's name may well cause trouble in the future. -- Jitse Niesen (talk) 14:49, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
I moved the merged article back to finite element method and restored the history. I think the merger was a good idea, but I did not check the implementation carefully. Oleg Alexandrov (talk) 03:51, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
Probably we need to merge the Galerkin method here as well. (Igny (talk) 15:42, 3 July 2008 (UTC))
There is a discussion about the proper name at Talk:Finite_element_method#The_merge. Comments are welcome.
To reply to Igny, the Galerkin method is more general, from what I know. That article may benefit from an expansion, perhaps. Oleg Alexandrov (talk) 17:27, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
The difference is only in the choice of basis. It would make sense to merge the Galerkin article into the FEM, by delineating where the FEM-specific stuff begins. Either you say "This is the Galerkin theory: ... FEM is the above with piecewise poly basis functions" or, you say "This is the FEM ... The method for a general choice of basis functions is called the Galerkin method". Loisel (talk) 19:28, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
I think that merger is a good idea, but a clarification is necessary in the article. "Finite element method" is a mathematic technique for solving boundary value problems. "Doing" FEM refers to taking your BVP and turning it into something a computer can handle. "Finite element analysis", on the other hand, is employing FEM to solve real problems. They sound very closely related, but the fact is that commercial FEA software is available which engineers and scientists make extensive use of, without them being interested in the FEM; indeed FEA is quite a bit more well known to the general world than its parent FEM. FEA should be a clear, non-mathematic section in the FEM article. The Galerkin method is a technique for minimizing a quantity called a weighted residual which is one way (ie, not the only way) to enable FEM, and this has uses beyond FEM (eg spectral method), so merging that in would be inappropriate I think. -Ben pcc (talk) 19:11, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Problem editor

Retired editor User:Arcfrk started an article here on me with the same heading some time back, in which he said that I was making problematic edits. The consensus at the time was that I was a good mathematics editor. Now when a new editor came to the Differential geometry of surfaces article asking how it can be improved, Arcfrk has emerged from his retirement to fulminate against me and all the material I added. This material is the standard introduction to Gaussian curvature of surfaces: I followed Marcel Berger's book fairly closely and have not resisted any attempts at improvement. Now Arcfrk has said on the talk page of the article that the material is so bad (in his own words he had to "shunt it off" from sursfaces) that it impossible to make any improvement. His words seem highly irrational, almost spiteful. Since other editors such as Oded Schramm have looked at the article and have made no adverse criticisms, Arcfrk's comments seem to come from a lone voice. Can people here explain why he is acting in this way? As far as I can tell, I have been adding solid mathematical material to the WP. He also accuses me of "following him around"; my choice of mathematical subjects has little or nothing to do with him, but reflects my real life activities in France and the UK. His comments would normally be classified as tendentious disruption and trolling on WP: his only intention seems to be to create ill feeling, rather than making constructive comments about editing. Any thoughts? Thanks, Mathsci (talk) 23:18, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

Mathsci and User:Arcfrk, I don't feel I can really judge this article well as you both seem to request. My knowledge of differential geometry is somewhat superficial, I'm afraid. As far as I can tell, the article seems to be well structured, the scope and choice of material seems reasonable. It might be claimed that the bulk of the material would only be understandable to readers with extensive background. Perhaps this is inevitable for such a subject. But Mathsci, your surprise as to Arcfrk's reaction puzzles me. In the article's talk page you referred to Arcfrk as a disappeard editor (which does not seem to be the case if you look at the contribution list), you claimed that Arcfrk has contributed very little to the article, and then blamed any shortcomings of the article on Arcfrk. Here, you refer to Arcfrk as a retired editor. I also assume that you two have some significant historical baggage. Why would you be surprised if Arcfrk is offended? It seems only natural. Oded (talk) 00:05, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
Originally the material on differential geometry of surfaces was added by me to Surfaces. Arcfrk decided (in his own words) to "shunt off" the material to a separate article. In making the move he wrote a new introduction, a short essay unrelated to riemannian geometry, and did not add any new content to the main text to take into account the fact that some parts could no longer rely on earlier material. I did not object to the move and said so at the time, so the bad feeling was wholly on Arcfrk's side. He also objected forcefully when I included Grigorchuk's short example of a finitely generated infinite periodic group in boundedly generated group and insisted on the work of Olshanky being quoted (and not Novikov). An easy compromise was reached: however, according to colleagues who know the real life identity of Arcfrk, I might have unwittingly identified myself with the wrong faction of opposing groups of Russian geometric group theorists. This I believe is probably the root of his animosity. But I have no idea why he accuses me of "following him around". In general I (and other WP mathematicians I know) try to avoid him. It was he after all that made a failed attempt to oust me as a mathematics editor in April. After this, he posted this on his user page [3]

Beware of a vile editor out there, by the name of Mathsci, who is so much in love with his contributions that he would growl and pounce on anyone who dares to come near "his" articles. His bite is very poisonous, and Arcfrk is convalescing very slowly.

which was against the WP policy of WP:NPA and could have resulted in an indefinite block. At the same time he wrote that he was "withdrawing from editing wikipedia" [4]. That is why I used the words "retired" and "disappeared": I took him at his word and have not followed his edits. My point in posting here is that I added standard material on differential geometry and now, without making any specific criticisms, he is saying that this main space content is incoherent. That is evidently not the case. This kind of trolling behaviour in advanced mathematics articles is extremely rare. Mathsci (talk) 06:05, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

Would you agree to completely disregard past disputes, treat Arcfrk politely, refrain from bad mouting him/her and treat his/her edits without prejudice if Arcfrk agrees to remove that comment and do the same? Oded (talk) 06:54, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

Hello again, Oded. As I was not actually aware that I have worked on any article that Arcfrk has edited prior to me, I don't quite understand your question. I have never made any comments about Arcfrk's personality, although I have severely criticized some of his mathematical evaluations of edits, perhaps a little too harshly - sometimes on the internet very direct talk page comments come across as impolite. Arcfrk himself had to remove the personal attack on his talk page: I only found it by accident in his diffs this morning - it's a pity he didn't support it by diffs, because he didn't have many to choose from. Is this [5] an example of what he's complaining about? It seems polite and quite mathematical to me. I feel no animosity towards Arcfrk, only a slight irritation; we have hardly interacted on WP by usual standards. Perhaps if he knew my real life identity, which I'm quite willing to supply to him in private, that might help resolve this issue and calm things down. Another WP mathematician told me that this did the trick for him :) What do you think? Mathsci (talk) 10:50, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
I was hoping for a yes, which I would take as no admission of guilt. As I said before, given youredit, it is hardly surprising that Arcfrk would be offended. If you would like to find a way to establish better relations with Arcfrk, then we can certainly try to help. But if your goal in starting this thread is to initiate some public trial of your disputes with Arcfrk, then I really don't want to have any part in that. Oded (talk) 16:25, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
My reply is yes in that case! The article Differential geometry of surfaces is currently undergoing a major overhaul, which involves (a) trying to make the material more easily accessible at an undergraduate level by including informal introductory remarks in subsections (as far as this is possible) (b) trying to iron out any inconsistencies accidentally created by the splitting off from the article Surfaces. At least one other editor is participating. Cheers, Mathsci (talk) 17:32, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

What about you, Arcfrk, would you agree (with no presumption of guilt) to completely disregard past disputes, treat Mathsci politely, refrain from bad mouting him/her, remove the warning regarding Mathsci from your user page and treat his/her edits without prejudice, given Mathsci promise above? —Preceding unsigned comment added by OdedSchramm (talkcontribs) 19:08, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

The personal attack on Arcfrk's user page referred to above has now been removed by an administrator. Mathsci (talk) 00:30, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
I think tattling on Arcfrk to Elonka (so she would remove it) works at cross purposes with Oded's mediation attempt. --C S (talk) 00:40, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
As soon as I realized that a version of the statement was still posted, I asked an administrator to remove it. Please take this up with Elonka if you have problems; when she removed the posting, she was quite aware of this process. Mathsci (talk) 08:29, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
Asking me to talk to Elonka is quite obtuse, as the problem is what you did. Elonka reacted the way anybody including you would expect. Certainly you must have known she would also have issued a warning to Arcfrk. This is hardly an action in the spirit of compromise you said you partake in. What happened to giving Arcfrk a chance to remove it himself? --C S (talk) 08:53, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
User:C S, you cannot see everything that is going on, for example by email. I wonder whether you could please step back and calm down? Thanks, Mathsci (talk) 11:09, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for your comments, Oded and CS! I have no idea what is "everything that is going on, for example by email". I do not know my alleged "real life identity" might be and have no clue who are the two factions among Russian geometric group theorists. However, I would like to apologize to the Mathematics community for whatever role I played, however unwisely or inadverently, in the appearence of this thread. Arcfrk (talk) 22:21, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Arcfrk restored the personal attack, removed by Elonka, to his userspace. It has now been removed by User:Dreadstar. Might he perhaps explain his actions here? Mathsci (talk) 22:48, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
I think a better tack at this point would be to put these actions in the past, and for everyone to resolve to abide by WP:CIVIL from this point forward. Let's keep this page for discussing mathematics articles on Wikipedia, not the editors who work on them. If there are further issues with incivility or personal attacks (from anyone), please contact me or some other administrator, and we'll deal with the user conduct issues. That way everyone else can focus on the main task here, which is building the encyclopedia. :) Thanks, --Elonka 23:47, 7 July 2008 (UTC)