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    There are probably some people who haven't seen this, and who may enjoy it as much as I do:

    I'm just posting this to make it more well known. I'd be interested if anyone would like to comment with links to similar posts.

    +1. That's one screenshot for the gallery!

    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeJul 17th 2010

    Heh. How about this one?


    Do we actually have a gallery? That would be kind of nice.


    I used the term 'gallery' figuratively, but I did keep a screenshot. So if a gallery is forthcoming, I'd gladly contribute it :)

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJul 17th 2010 edited

    So now we just need to get Perelman and Wiles >=)

    Then we're set =p.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeJul 26th 2010

    Here's another recent example from Dick Palais, though I guess he didn't really so much endorse the answer.

    • CommentAuthorE.S
    • CommentTimeOct 5th 2010

    Many seem to be gratified to see "OP-meet-the-real-guy-of-the-question."

    • CommentAuthorMariano
    • CommentTimeOct 6th 2010

    @Elohemahab Solomon, I think what does it is seeing that names one reads on book covers correspond to actual humans.


    @Yemon: it was so much more awesome due to F.Voloch's comment.

    • CommentAuthorpeterwshor
    • CommentTimeOct 6th 2010 edited

    My question about generalizations of a Knutson-Tao theorem got two different answers from Knutson and Tao:


    @Yemon, Willie: amazing! It is actually quite scary to think of who are lurking on MO!

    • CommentAuthorMariano
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2010

    John Mackay asking «What do we mean by 'sporadic' ?»: :)


    Are we sure that's actually John McKay?

    • CommentAuthorMariano
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2010

    Just as sure that you are Qiaochu Yuan!

    • CommentAuthorBen Webster
    • CommentTimeDec 19th 2010 edited
    • CommentAuthorE.S
    • CommentTimeDec 21st 2010

    @ Mariano, I can't help posting this quotation though I do not agree at times with it.

    Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté. -Margaret Atwood, novelist and poet (b. 1939)

    • CommentAuthorAlex Bartel
    • CommentTimeDec 21st 2010 edited

    Margaret Atwood obviously fell victim to the confusion over words that can have multiple meanings, thinking that the word "like" in "to like an author's work" means the same as in "to like duck paté". On the other hand, maybe that is indeed how she perused literary works - by devouring them. In that case, I agree that the quoted observation is accurate, since it would only make sense if she liked the author rather than just his work.


    I like duck paté although I am not enthusiatic at meeting the source; I would meet the chef (= the author) rather than the duck. The meta is about "getting truth at first hand". "Meeting on Mathoverflow" is something very special, and seems to have nothing to do with what people usually understand as "meeting". Most of MOtizens are anonyms (which make me thinking about those poor no-name ducks again).

    @ Alex Bartel: I'm sure Margaret Atwood refers to the experience that people who write fascinating novels are often not very fascinating dialog partners (people who excel at both usually end up at the theater or at the movies). This statement is somewhat out of place in mathematics IMHO.
    • CommentAuthorE.S
    • CommentTimeDec 22nd 2010

    Yesterday night I spent reading over a guest professor's paper which was to be presented by him today. I had some difficulties understanding some formulas in the paper. However, today after seeing it lectured on by the author himself, I felt the true happiness people who evidenced such bliss here felt. Two observations: (1) Researching math with primary sources makes the math tractable and understandable. (2) Having an idea and explaining it to others in black and white can be really hard. As I saw today, all the details mentioned in the seminar could have well made it to the paper, only that it will make it a "tome" or "a paper for beginners".

    Well, there's been no action here in awhile, but it seems we have another case in the same flavor, in this case with an appearance of Professor Cisinski...
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJul 29th 2011

    Continuing in this vein, Mnev on Mnev, citing Mnev.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeAug 26th 2011

    @David: in regards to the question and the answer, you can extend that to "Mnev on Mnev, citing Mnev, who cites Mnev, and Mnev, and Vakil, and Lombardi-Mnev-Roy, and others," ... which probably is "for the win" =p (I hope no one is offended!)

    • CommentAuthortheojf
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2011

    Jim Humphreys' very interesting answer is not the accepted answer to Motivating the Casimir element, which is more-or-less a complaint about Humphreys' proof of Weyl's complete reducibility theorem.


    One of the more amusing ones -- Noam Elkies on the subject of whether or not Elkies was a musician before he was a mathematician.


    Bill Johnson on the Johnson-Lindenstrauss Lemma: minimum space dimension to place n-points knowing pairwise distances.


    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but something about this thread makes me a bit uncomfortable. I find it hard to put into words, but it's something to do with the idea that a piece of mathematics might belong to someone, and it's something to do with the concept of celebrity.

    Of course, I'd be pretty excited if I asked a question about Serre's work and Serre turned up to answer it. And I appreciate that it's wise for MO to keep track of success stories, because maybe in future it's going to have to apply for funding. And the original Green-Tao thing was funny. But... well, here's a story. A friend of mine is at the same institution as a very famous mathematician, who I'll call X. My friend tells me that X has very mixed feelings about his fame, because it means that people are too scared to talk to him. He just wants to interact like an ordinary mathematician, bounce ideas around, have conversations in a relaxed manner, but this doesn't happen because people know who he is and therefore don't act naturally.

    From what my friend says, I'm sure that if X were on MO, the last thing he'd want is for people to make a fuss about it. There's zero chance that they wouldn't, which I think is a shame. In X's case, and I'm sure in the case of many other mathematicians of a shy-ish nature, the right thing to do would be to treat him just like anyone else.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2011

    +1 to Tom Leinster.


    Wow, never thought about that, Tom! Good one.

    Rota wrote somewhere that when an illustrious mathematician reaches a certain age, he is no longer treated as a person, but as an institution. (I take it he is speaking from direct experience!) Some people have an easier time adapting to that than others.

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2011 edited
    On the other hand, MO is not the real world. Bill Thurston managed to ask a question here, something about how mathematicians think when solving problems. It stayed open, partly because he pointed out that nobody can give him a straight answer in person.

    @Felipe Voloch. Yes, I too realized that I could get away with more than most people. But that also means that mathematicians sometimes say less of what's on their mind to me than they might to someone less intimidating to them. The phenomenon of the complicated mental picture is exactly what I'm asking about. I can't expect you to convey the picture except in general terms, but just to talk more of its role in your mind, so why don't you write an actual "answer". @Cam McLeman: that's exactly what I'm asking for. Why not turn it into a full answer? – Bill Thurston Sep 14 2010

    The question was

    Or, as in "I'm sure that if X were on MO, the last thing he'd want is for people to make a fuss about it," the fuss on MO dies down more quickly than it does, say, at conferences, partly because of the larger number of distinct "contacts" in a fixed time period.
    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2011
    Well, this thread is already a sort of a cute and harmless tradition. Probably "meta" discussions about this thread belong to yet another thread. There is also a sort of a "self referential" or "second order" example which is Peter Shor's mentioning here answers by Tao and Knutson to his question.

    Regarding Tom Leinster's comment, I'm reminded of a paragraph from Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. Speaking of Feynman,

    Bohr said to his son, "Remember the name of that little fellow in the back over there? He's the only guy who's not afraid of me, and will say when I've got a crazy idea. So next time when we want to discuss ideas, we're not going to be able to do it with these guys who say everything is yes, yes, Dr. Bohr. Get that guy and we'll talk with him first."

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeFeb 8th 2013
    I saw that, it made no impression on me without the Joel David in front.
    Robert Bryant answered "Qustions on R.Bryant’s papaer 'Calibrated embeddings in the special Lagrangian and coassociative cases'":

    In case anyone still looks at this thread, an example from a sibling site: there are a couple of answers by Peter Shor on Shor's algorithm on