I thought I would try a little experiement here. Recently some high profile mathematicians have been using a blog to conduct a massively collaborative mathematics project. What a brilliant idea that could be done today, with our current technology!
I have nothing so grand in mind, but I thought I’d try something in the same spirit.
I would like to write an article called “Mythematics” in which I list some famous mathematical myths and either debunk them or argue for their veracity (the type of article that would fit well in a journal like Math Horizons or the Mathematical Intelligencer).
For example consider these two oft-repeated myths:
- There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics because Nobel’s wife had an affair with a mathematician (soundly debunked)
- The baby Gauss story—Gauss amazed his teacher by quickly summing 1 to 100 (Brian Hayes wrote an interesting article about this in the American Scientist)
I have a long list of other myths that I discovered, but I am not going to list them yet.
This is where you come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give me some mathematical myths to include in the article. You can post them in the comments below (that’s my preference) or send them to me by email. (I think this is what they call crowdsourcing.) The more information you can give me, the better. For example, if you know of a good reference that debunks/validates the myth, include that too. Remember I’m looking for myths that are true and ones that are false.
Then I will use this blog throughout the spring and summer as a place to write about what I find. Eventually I will put them together into an article. I will give credit to those of you whose myths make it into the blog or the final article.