The latest on Mochizuki

Once in every six months there’s a flurry of online excitement about Mochizuki’s alleged proof of the abc-conjecture.

It seems to be that time of the year again.

The twitter-account of the ever optimistic @math_jin is probably the best source for (positive) news about IUT/ABC. He now announces the latest version of Yamashita’s ‘summary’ of Mochizuki’s proof:

Another informed source is Ed Frenkel. He sometimes uses his twitter-account @edfrenkel to broadcast Ivan Fesenko‘s enthusiasm.

Googling further, I stumbled upon an older (newspaper) article on the subject: das grosse ABC by Marlene Weiss, for which she got silver at the 2017 science journalism awards.

In case you prefer an English translation: The big ABC.

Here’s her opening paragraph:

“In a children’s story written by the Swiss author Peter Bichsel, a lonely man decides to invent his own language. He calls the table “carpet”, the chair “alarm clock”, the bed “picture”. At first he is enthusiastic about his idea and always thinks of new words, his sentences sound original and funny. But after a while, he begins to forget the old words.”

The article is less optimistic than other recent popular accounts of Mochizuki’s story, including:

Monumental proof to torment mathematicians for years to come in Nature by Davide Castelvecchi.

Hope Rekindled for Perplexing Proof in Quanta-magazine by Kevin Hartnett.

Baffling ABC maths proof now has impenetrable 300-page ‘summary’ in the New Scientist by Timothy Revell.

Marlene Weiss fears a sad ending:

“Table is called “carpet”, chair is called “alarm clock”, bed is called “picture”. In the story by Peter Bichsel, the lonely man ends up having so much trouble communicating with other people that he speaks only to himself. It is a very sad story.”

Perhaps things will turn out for the better, and we’ll hear about it sometime.

In six months, I’d say…

The joys of running a WordPress blog

Earlier today, John Duncan (of moonshine fame) emailed he was unable to post a comment to the previous post:
“I went to post a comment but somehow couldn’t convince the website to cooperate.”

There’s little point in maintaining a self-hosted blog if people cannot comment on it. If you tried, you got this scary message:

Catchable fatal error: Object of class WP_Error could not be converted to string in /wp-includes/formatting.php on line 1031

The days I meddled with wordpress core php-files are long gone, and a quick Google search didn’t come up with anything helpful.

In despair, there’s always the database to consider.

Here’s a screenshot of this blog’s database in phpMyAdmin:

No surprise you cannot comment here, there isn’t even a wp_comments table in the database! (though surprisingly, there’s a table wp_commentmeta…)

Two weeks ago I moved this blog to a new iMac. Perhaps the database got corrupted in the process, or the quick export option of phpMyAdmin doesn’t include comments (unlikely), or whatever.

Here’s what I did to get things working again. It may solve your problem if you don’t have a backup of another wordpress-blog with a functional wp_comments table.

1. Set up a new WordPress blog in the usual way, including a new database, let’s call it ‘newblog’.

2. In phpMyAdmin drop all tables in newblog except for wp_comments.

3. Export your blog’s database, say ‘oldblog’, via the ‘quick export’ option in phpMyAdmin to get a file oldblog.sql.

4. If this file is small you can use phpMyAdmin to import it into newblog. If not you need to do it with this terminal-command

mysql -h localhost -u root – p newblog < oldblog.sql

and have the patience for this to finish.

5. Change in your wp-config file the oldblog database to newblog.

Happy commenting!

Pariah moonshine and math-writing

Getting mathematics into Nature (the journal) is next to impossible. Ask David Mumford and John Tate about it.

Last month, John Duncan, Michael Mertens and Ken Ono managed to do just that.

Inevitably, they had to suffer through a photoshoot and give their university’s PR-people some soundbites.

CAPTION

In the simplest terms, an elliptic curve is a doughnut shape with carefully placed points, explain Emory University mathematicians Ken Ono, left, and John Duncan, right. “The whole game in the math of elliptic curves is determining whether the doughnut has sprinkles and, if so, where exactly the sprinkles are placed,” Duncan says.

CAPTION

“Imagine you are holding a doughnut in the dark,” Emory University mathematician Ken Ono says. “You wouldn’t even be able to decide whether it has any sprinkles. But the information in our O’Nan moonshine allows us to ‘see’ our mathematical doughnuts clearly by giving us a wealth of information about the points on elliptic curves.”

(Photos by Stephen Nowland, Emory University. See here and here.)

Some may find this kind of sad, or a bad example of over-popularisation.

I think they do a pretty good job of getting the notion of rational points on elliptic curves across.

That’s what the arithmetic of elliptic curves is all about, finding structure in patterns of sprinkles on special doughnuts. And hey, you can get rich and famous if you’re good at it.

Their Nature-paper Pariah moonshine is a must-read for anyone aspiring to write a math-book aiming at a larger audience.

It is an introduction to and a summary of the results they arXived last February O’Nan moonshine and arithmetic.

Update (October 21st)

John Duncan send me this comment via email:

“Strictly speaking the article was published in Nature Communications (https://www.nature.com/ncomms/). We were also rejected by Nature. But Nature forwarded our submission to Nature Communications, and we had a great experience. Specifically, the review period was very fast (compared to most math journals), and the editors offered very good advice.

My understanding is that Nature Communications is interested in publishing more pure mathematics. If someone reading this has a great mathematical story to tell, I (humbly) recommend to them this option. Perhaps the work of Mumford–Tate would be more agreeably received here.

By the way, our Nature Communications article is open access, available at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00660-y.”

Grothendieck seminar at the ENS

Next week, the brand new séminaire « Lectures grothendieckiennes » will kick off on Tuesday October 24th at 18hr (h/t Isar Stubbe).



There will be one talk a month, on a tuesday evening from 18hr-20hr. Among the lecturers are the ‘usual suspects’:

Pierre Cartier (October 24th) will discuss the state of functional analysis before Grothendieck entered the scene in 1948 and effectively ‘killed the subject’ (said Dieudonné).

Alain Connes (November 7th) will talk on the origins of Grothendieck’s introduction of toposes.

In fact, toposes will likely be a recurrent topic of the seminar.

Laurant Laforgue‘s title will be ‘La notion de vérité selon Grothendieck'(January 9th) and on March 6th there will be a lecture by Olivia Caramello.

Also, Colin McLarty will speak about them on May 3rd: “Nonetheless one should learn the language of topos: Grothendieck on building houses”.

The closing lecture will be delivered by Georges Maltsiniotis on June 5th 2018.

Further Grothendieck news, there’s the exhibition of a sculpture by Nina Douglas, the wife of Michael Douglas, at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics (h/t Jason Starr).



It depicts Grothendieck as shepherd. The lambs in front of him have Riemann surfaces inserted into them and on the staff is Grothendieck’s ‘Hexenkuche’ (his proof of the Riemann-Roch theorem).