28 December 2005

Hate writing papers? Become a mathematician!

I have a number of friends who possess what are known as ABD degrees—"all but dissertation". That is, they fulfilled all of the requirements for a doctorate or a master's, but somehow just couldn't bring themselves to write that all-important paper at the end.
What's more, science & math education in the US, says a USA Today editorial, is falling well behind that of other countries, and it's not all due to the "intelligent design" nonsense. A major problem is the lack of teachers with mathematics training.

So I'm going to do my part to help and point out the recent achievement of Steven Hofmann, who solved a newish math problem called Kato's Conjecture. This was a result important enough to get reported by the AP, and could well have been accepted as a dissertation.

Here's why the paper-shy should become mathematicians: it took all of 120 words to report the results. And he had five others helping, for an average of 20 presumably extremely well-chosen words per author. I suppose there were also some equations involved.

Even for a math paper, that's exceptionally short—I would guess that most math dissertations are closer to 20 pages long. Still, I think almost anyone could manage that.

If you need another reason—and I'm talking just to the boys here, and a few of you girls—Winnie Cooper grew up [warning: mildly not safe for work] and became a mathematician. Should you ever start going out with her, it'd be nice to have something to talk about, yes?

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