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Re: rant on the morality of confidentiality (fwd)



Jim Choate <[email protected]> writes:
> > From: Tim May <[email protected]>
>
> > "Name me one..."? How about Gauss, who didn't publish many of his results.
> > Or, of course, Fermat, ironically linked to Wiles.
>
> True, Gauss didn't publish many of his results and he wasn't famed for that
> either. He *was* famed because he *did* publish some of his works. In fact,
> if you study Gauss you find a insecure introvert who in general hated his
> competition. He lied in his correspondance about work he supposedly did (see
> his relations with Bolyai who was a friend of his from school -
> "Non-euclidean Geometry" by Roberto Bonola; Dover ISBN 0-486-60027-0 $5.50).
> Yes, Gauss was respected for his math, he was hated for his humanity, or
> lack thereof. If anything Gauss' bahaviour held back science because of his
> self-interest.

Janos Bolyai was the son of the math professor Farkas B. in Buda(best).
While an undergraduate, he was working with a fellow named Szasz on
non-euclidean geometry. In 1832 he published his findings as an appendix
to his father's textbook. he did show that Euclid's axiom about parallel
lines is independent of the others and did explore the geometry that
arises if you omit this axiom. According to my sources, the appendix
is "Wronski-like" to the point of unreadability. Apparently no one
actually read it until B. started arguing about who did what first.

The Russian mathematician Lobachavsky, in Kazan, came up with very
similar results at the same time. He announced them at a talk in 1826
and published them in 1829. he was clearly first. There's no evidence
that B. knew of L.'s results; these ideas were coming naturally from
the work of the other mathematicians at this time.

In 1837 B. submitted a paper on quaternions to some sort of competition;
it received a very nagative review, which caused him to go crazy.
He started working on logical foundations of geometry in weird ways,
setting himself goals that he couldn't achieve. Then in 1940 he came
across a German translation of Lobachevsky's paper on non-eucldiean
geometry. he went totally bonkers, claiming that a) Lobachevsky is
not a real person, but a "tentacle" of Gauss; b) that gauss is out
to nail him, b) that their result is wrong anyway (although he never
explained how). He died relatively young and totally insane.

As someone pointed out, much of gauss's writings were not published until
after his death. The folsk researching his notes were shocked to discover
that Gauss did actually come up with very similar non-euclidean geometry
ideas as early as 1818 (not surprisingly - these ideas were literally
floating in the air). However he chose not to publish them, not realizing
how important they would be, and also fearing that they woudn't be
well accepted by his peers. Neither Bolyai nor Lobachevsky knew about
Gauss's work.

I have no idea what Bonola wrote, but if he's just repeating the allegations
Bolyai made about Gauss while suffering from depression and paranoia, they
have no more truth in them than the Timmy May rants on this mailing list.

By the way, the same gossip prompted the Tom Lehrer song about Lobachevsky.
I also don't see how Bolyai could have been gauss's chool friend, being
25 years younger than K.F.

And it's not a dichotomy; it's a trichotomy: one can
* do research and publish the results in a refereed journal. This is of
use only for tenue-track faculty who need to publish to get tenured. Many
refereed journals are extrmely political, with "friends" being published
ahead of the queue, and "strangers" kept waiting for a couple of years
while the "friends" can be advised of the manuscripts and publish their
own version of the results.
* do research on some practical problems whose solution interests some
wealthy folks. Most tenured faculty dream of doing that; many actually do.
* do research for fun/as a hobby; some wealthy folks do that, or pay
others to do that.

> Fermat in general published most of his work, however, much of it was lost
> including his proof. His statement was that it was too long to be written in
> the margin of the book, not that he didn't write it down. The implication
> being that he *had* written it down and it got misplaced or lost it.

Fermat was a judge. He did math for fun. (Strictly speaking, he did a lot
his mathematical research to facilitate his gambling hobby - at the time
when securities investment was viewed as a form of gambling no different
from cards, dice, horse races, dog fights/races, cock fights, etc.

How is Timmy's bet that INTC will fall (and shorting it, if he's got any
brains) different from some Jose's bet that the rooster named Pedro will
rip out the guts of the rooster named Jorge? I've known sports gamblers
who would bet tens of thusands of dollars on a single game, and they also
invested in securities; and the research they did before betting $40K on
a basketball game was comparable to the research before taking a similar
risk on stocks or bonds.

---

<a href="mailto:[email protected]">Dr.Dimitri Vulis KOTM</a>
Brighton Beach Boardwalk BBS, Forest Hills, N.Y.: +1-718-261-2013, 14.4Kbps