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    The post at appears to be a case of trollery, pure and simple. The comment thread now has well over 40 entries, nearly all of them consisting of the OP misrepresenting other posts by Douglas Zare, myself, and others, for the purpose of jeering at them. It's become increasingly clear that the misrepresentation is intentional. (See below.)

    The entire content of the OP's "insight" is this: An earlier post ( ) asked about the properties of a ratio of two random variables (call them X and Y). Zare computed the expected value of that ratio, E(X/Y). The OP thinks it would be more interesting to compute E(X)/E(Y), and therefore Zare made a "mistake". This ignores the fact that E(X)/E(Y) is not in fact a property of X/Y and hence is irrelevant to the original question. It also ignores the fact that the computation of E(X)/E(Y) is trivial, whereas Zare's computation of E(X/Y) is interesting. It also ignores the fact that is not a "mistake" to compute one thing when the OP is more interested in computing another.

    It's been downhill from there. The OP has repeatedly, not just in this comment thread but multiple other comment threads on the earlier post, made false mathematical claims without proof, (and without acknowledging that proof is called for), grossly misrepresented Zare, myself and others by falsely asserting (and repeating and repeating and repeating) that we have claimed to be able to beat a fair roulette wheel, and hurled multiple insults as a substitute for argument.

    One of his repeated ploys is to take a (correct) argument made by Zare, combine it with a complete misstatement of some other result (often the Optional Stopping Theorem) and then hold Zare (or myself) responsible for the conclusions he manages to draw from this conjunction of truth and falsehood.

    It's become evident at this point that the OP does not even believe his own claims, having rejected my offer to bet him $5000 on the outcome of a simulation, and having repeated his misstatements of others' claims ad infinitum immediately after the misstatements are called to his attention.

    There is, incidentally, absolutely no mathematical content to this post (or, for that matter, to any of the OP's other posts). As far as I can tell, his only goal in being here is to annoy people.

    I'm not sure what the right response is. There's a lot to be said for just ignoring him, but that's harder than it sounds. In addition to his own post, he's cluttered up several answers on the original post with comments that detract from both the tone and the content of the discussion there, and make it just a little bit harder to follow that discussion. I have no idea how the de facto criteria for a ban have evolved. My gut feelings are that there should be a high bar for banning, and that this case clears that bar. On the other hand, my personal involvement might have clouded my judgment. I wonder what others think.
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2013
    Voted to delete, I guess the 48 hours since closure have passed. Quicker by spam flags, usually

    If you choose to post as text, rather than markdown, the links will be clickable automatically. Otherwise you will have to use [title](url) format for the links.
    Asaf: Thanks. I always forget, and have wanted to do this forever. By the way: Is it the same with comments on MSE, or do I need to do something else for clickable links over there?

    I understand moderators are reluctant to delete comments, but I agree that in this case deleting comments on the earlier post (and posting them here) seems the correct course of action, as the question and answers are interesting, while the current comments are not, to put it mildly.

    (Ha! Asaf's suggestion works.)

    The post in question is now deleted, but I very much agree with Andres's suggestion that the comments on the earlier post should be deleted. They are offensive, argumentative, devoid of mathematical content (and indeed contemptuous of the very idea of mathematical inquiry), false and defamatory.

    Asaf: Thanks. I wish I'd know this.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2013

    I agree while the (new) question itself was a bit annoying (and got ever more in the process), the strain of comments on the old question seems like a real problem to me that would best be removed (possibly with a back-up copy).

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!

    Comments on SE 2.x parse links directly, but also markdown.
    The user "Rhett Butler" is continuing to spam the original post at , adding comments that (quite obviously intentionally) mis-state what others (mostly Douglas Zare) have said, solely in order to mock these mis-statements. These comments make it hard to follow the threads, and their tone is entirely inappropriate, partly because they're so rude and insulting, and partly because they're so openly contemptuous of anything that smacks of actual mathematical reasoning. I repeat my hope that these comments will be deleted, and my hope that the user (who essentially never posts anything of mathematical value) will be discouraged or prohibited from continuing in this vein.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2013

    @StevenLandsburg: if you would like/consider it important that something is done relatively quickly, it is my understanding that the general request of the moderators for such cases is to better email them under: moderators at mathoverflow dot net

    @SteveLandsburg : One option is to flag the comments as spam (via the little button that appears near the upvote arrow). Enough spam flags, and the comments disappears.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2013 edited

    While technically possible I'd caution against deleting the comments via flags. AFAIK it will then even for moderators be very difficult (or impossible) to reconstruct the situation. Also some of the replies might need deletion [not for intrinsic reasons, but since replies to then inexistant things always look strange]; which owners could do themselves but overall it seems a lot cleaner if this is done in one go by moderators [in case they think it should be done]. (I do not think the comments being around for a typically quite short while in addition is worth the negative side-effects. If OP would post a lot at the moment this would be different; but OP seems idle at the moment.)


    I've written an email to Rhett Butler. I propose we wait a bit before deleting a lot.

    The troll is back, having just posted a new comment at , repeating his nonsense assertion that "Zare's result is false" (though he's made absolutely no attempt to point to an error in the proof) and his libelous assertion that Zare claims to be able to beat roulette. This is getting awfully tiresome.

    Thanks for the heads-up. If the argument begins anew at some point in the future, please let the moderators know.

    Thank you, Scott.
    And interestingly, "Monty", a brand new member, makes exactly the same elementary mistake as Rhett Butler in almost exactly the same language:

    I wonder how similar their IP addresses are.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2013

    Yes I was also wondering (and Rhett Butler is already 'fighting against' the answer); in any case, I flagged the post on main for moderator attention some minutes ago.

    • CommentAuthorAngelo
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2013
    I voted to delete . And I would suggest suspending Rhett Butler, who, besides being a crank, is also rude.
    I very much agree with Angelo that should be deleted, and continue to hope that the many trollish and rude comments by Rhett Butler at will be deleted as well.
    From a comment of Monty's: "The original question concerns the possibility to change the 50/50 distribution of boys and girls by stopping after a boy has been born." I do not think that anyone who has followed Rhett Butler's spam flow will doubt that Monty is speaking in Rhett's voice.
    More of the same, now in Meta: and Can the moderators do something about this? Clearly, suspending on the main site is not enough.


    meta has always been a rather unregulated place. Do your best to cope, and feel free to let me know by email if you think something needs immediate attention! Our thinking is more or less that diverting trolls from the main site to meta is a success. (People over here have thicker skin, and understand more about the workings of mathoverflow, than they necessarily do on the main site, so little damage is done.)

    In the same direction, when we suspend or ban people from the main site, it's important that they have some mechanism for appeal, and hence I'm rather hesitant to make bans on meta.


    Monty is now posting on the corresponding math.SE thread.

    • CommentAuthormonty
    • CommentTimeJun 4th 2013
    Of course people should recognize that Zare's claim is false: "So, for a large population such as a country, the official answer of 1/2 is approximately correct, although the explanation is misleading". Are you so ashamed to have voted that up that you cannot stand the reality?

    Zev, also in this thread. :|

    • CommentAuthormonty
    • CommentTimeJun 4th 2013
    I don't think that anybody who has followed Landsburg's spam flow here and in MO will understand that he is speaking in Zare's voice. Nevertheless it is fact that the average calculated by Zare does not in any case concern the original question. They are both not *Smarter Than Google* but a lot less.
    • CommentAuthorAngelo
    • CommentTimeJun 4th 2013
    I am more and more convinced that suspending users in meta would be a good idea. If a users spams MO, and is suspended, then he can complain in meta. But if he starts spamming meta, insulting valued contributors, and does show any sign of wanting to stop, what's wrong with suspending him?
    I'm closing this thread, I think it's run its course. I think everyone is on the same page at this point.

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