Opinion 104: The Shocking State of Contemporary “Mathematics”, and the Meta-Shocking Fact that Very Few People Are Shocked
I just came back from attending the 1052nd AMS (sectional) meeting at Penn State, last weekend, and realized that the Kingdom of Mathematics is dead. Instead we have a disjoint union ofnarrow specialties, and people who know everything about nothing, and nothing about anything (except their very narrow acre). Not only do they know nothing besides their narrow expertise, they don’t care!
The “meeting” was not really a meeting. It was many mini-meetings! 22 of them, running in parallel and in complete oblivion of each other. All that they shared was the coffee, tea, and donuts. That’s a little reassuring that an algebraic combinatorialist has at least one thing in common with an algebraic geometer, a q-serieser, and a Heat-kernel group theorist: they all drink coffee (or tea), and eat donuts! But that’s about it….
Each speaker had a special session associated with his narrow specialty, so naturally between 20 to 30 people for each talk were a captive audience. It would be really in bad taste to play hookey on the talk of the organizer of your special session….
You can’t really blame the audience for not showing up, since they were probably burnt out from countless previous invited talks where they didn’t understand a word, or from reading the very technical abstracts of the current talks. Most speakers have no clue how to give a general talk. They start out, very nicely, with ancient history, and motivation, for the first five minutes, but then they start racing into technical lingo that I doubt even the experts can fully follow.
Please! Expand these first five minutes into fifty minutes, tell us about the history, background, motivation, and you don’t have to even mention your own results.
BONUS (possibly related): Claire Kamp Dush’s “How Structural Equation Modeling is Ruining Family Research”