• Question: What is the worst thing that could happen to the field of mathematics right now?

Asked by Ruairi on 31 Dec 2019.
• Diana Kornbrot answered on 31 Dec 2019:

Dumming down
Not offering children the opportunity to look at tough problems that have possible solution. It is CRIMINAL to deny those who ARE interested in maths opportunities just becasue some people are grfightned by maths

these lectures are a depressing example of dumming down. They are a insult to your intelligence because they do not provide details of ANY problem at all that can vbe answered by amthematical thinking with associated soilution

• Gary Munnelly answered on 1 Jan 2020: last edited 1 Jan 2020 10:10 pm

A major conspiracy theory takes hold. The mathematicians have been lying to us. Pi is exactly 3.

The mathematicians argue that this is nonsense. Pi is the ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle. It is provably 3.14159… by very trivial means.

“No!” cry the conspiracy theorists. The mathematicians are lying. How can a number be irrational? Numbers don’t have feelings.

The mathematicians grow bored with these raving lunatics crying nonsesnse at their doors. They return to their research, secure in the knowledge that, of course Pi is not exactly 3. Why should they waste any more of their time on such foolishness?

Meanwhile, the conspiracy theorists mobilize. They form a society and take to the streets proclaiming their message. At first they are ridiculed. “Pi cannot be exactly 3,” says a random passerby, “the mathematicians have proven that it is 3.14159…”

“Ah,” say the conspiracy theorists, “but have you ever seen these proofs for yourself?”

“Well, no” says the passerby, beginning to doubt.

Over time the conspiracy gains weight.

Eventually the mathematicians start to realise that the previously small group declaring Pi to be exactly 3 has grown. They re-emerge from their labs, now with diagrams, illustrations and proofs to show that Pi cannot be exactly 3.

“Lies!” cry the conspiracy theorists, “NASA has clearly tampered the light as it enters your eyes so that their proofs seem valid.”

The conspiracy theorists now form a political party and run for office. It takes many campaigns but eventually they come to power and enact a law redefining Pi = 3. All technology must be adjusted to conform to this new definition.

The end is abrupt.

Network communication ceases as the Fourier Transforms which encode data passing down a wire using sums of sines no longer work. Videogames break as the basic trigonometric operations required to compute the intersection between rays and vertices now include multiple compounding errors in computation. The whole field of Electrical Engineering implodes catastrophically as engineers can no longer properly analyse their circuits.

Society collapses.

I think that would be pretty bad for the field of mathematics.