In Japan wurde am Sonntag gewählt, klarer Sieger ist die Liberal-Demokratische Partei, welche bekanntlich die pazifistische Verfassung ändern sowie “Whistleblower” (welche zum Beispiel auf Sicherheitsmängel in Atomkraftwerken hinweisen) strenger bestrafen will. Universitäten sollen (und das ist ernstgemeint) ihre Fakultäten für Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften abschaffen oder in andere Felder überführen, die “besser den Bedürfnissen der Gesellschaft gerecht werden”. Und im internationalen Vergleich der Pressefreiheit ist Japan bereits “weit hinter andere liberale Länder zurückgefallen”.
Es ist natürlich Zufall und hat nichts mit der Wahl vom letzten Sonntag zu tun, aber irgendwie paßt es dann doch ganz gut. Zu einer nächste Woche in Kyoto stattfindenden Konferenz über inter-universelle Teichmüllertheorie findet sich auf der Konferenz-Webseite ein ziemlich einmaliger Verhaltenskodex für Konferenzteilnehmer:
In the years since the release of the four papers on IUT in August 2012, a number of individuals (not all of whom are professional mathematicians) have made vague, sweeping comments that lack any solid justification (e.g., based on substantive mathematical content), for instance, on the internet, concerning these papers. Such vague, sweeping comments can never result in true mathematical progress. Meaningful progress in the field of mathematics can only be achieved by focusing on specific, detailed, mathematically substantive content. Moreover, focusing on such specific, detailed, mathematically substantive content, as a matter of standard practice, is ultimately in the best interests of all parties involved.
One fundamental reason for emphasizing, as in (4), the importance of focusing on such specific, detailed, mathematically substantive content is that only by recording such content explicitly, for instance, in the form of an e-mail or short PDF file, can this content be scrutinized in detail by other mathematicians. Here, the phrase “other mathematicians” should be understood to include not only the author (in this case, S. Mochizuki) of the papers in question, but also other mathematicians currently involved in the various activities referred to in (1), (2), and (3), as well as mathematicians who may become involved in activities related to IUT at some future date, whether that future date arises in the next few months or several decades later, i.e., at a date when all of the mathematicians who are currently involved with IUT are deceased or no longer mathematically active.
With regard to oral questions posed during the talks of the RIMS workshop in July 2016, in order to ensure that the workshop functions in an orderly and productive manner, the organizers of the workshop would like to request that, in addition to the points raised in (1), (2), (3), (4), and (5) above, participants take the following points into account:
(a) Questions should be posed in a polite and neutral way.
(b) Questions (that concern content of a more serious nature than an obvious error or misprint) should not be posed in a rushed or irreverent manner, but only after due time and consideration have been given to their content.
(c) Speakers should not be interrupted for substantial periods of time during the main portion of their talks (unless this is absolutely necessary).
Thema der Tagung ist der vor vier Jahren angekündigte Beweis der abc-Vermutung, über den wir damals hier geschrieben hatten und dessen Status auch nach einer großen Konferenz vergangenen Dezember in Oxford völlig unklar ist.
Brian Conrad hatte damals über die Ergebnisse des Oxford-Workshops einen längeren Artikel geschrieben und es dürfte vor allem der folgende Absatz sein, der den Hintergrund für die obigen Ermahnungen erklärt.
There was substantial audience frustration in the final 2 days. Here is an example.
We kept being told many variations of “consider two objects that are isomorphic,” or even something as vacuous-sounding as “consider two copies of the category D, but label them differently.” Despite repeated requests with mounting degrees of exasperation, we were never told a compelling example of an interesting situation of such things with evident relevance to the goal.
We were often reminded that absolute Galois groups of p-adic fields admit automorphisms not arising from field theory, but we were never told in a clear manner why the existence of such exotic automorphisms is relevant to the task of proving Szpiro’s Conjecture; perhaps the reason is a simple one, but it was never clearly explained despite multiple requests. (Sometimes we were told it would become clearer later, but that never happened either.)
After a certain amount of this, we were told (much to general surprise) variations of “you have been given examples.” (Really? Interesting ones? Where?) It felt like taking a course in linear algebra in which one is repeatedly told “Consider a pair of isomorphic vector spaces” but is never given an interesting example (of which there are many) despite repeated requests and eventually one is told “you have been given examples.”
Persistent questions from the audience didn’t help to remove the cloud of fog that overcame many lectures in the final two days. The audience kept asking for examples (in some instructive sense, even if entirely about mathematical structures), but nothing satisfactory to much of the audience along such lines was provided.
For instance, we were shown (at high speed) the definition of a rather elaborate notion called a “Hodge theater,” but were never told in clear succinct terms why such an elaborate structure is entirely needed. (Perhaps this was said at some point, but nobody I spoke with during the breaks caught it.) Much as it turns out that the very general theory of Frobenioids is ultimately unnecessary for the purpose of proving Szpiro’s Conjecture, it was natural to wonder if the same might be true of the huge amount of data involved in the general definition of Hodge theaters; being told in clearer terms what the point is and what goes wrong if one drops part of the structure would have clarified many matters immensely.
The fact that the audience was interrupting with so many basic questions caused the lectures to fall behind schedule, which caused some talks to go even faster to try to catch up with the intended schedule, leading to a feedback loop of even more audience confusion, but it was the initial “too much information” problem that caused the many basic questions to arise in the first place. Lectures should be aimed at the audience that is present.
Statt durch Fragen in Vorträgen sollen die Teilnehmer den Stoff wohl lieber von solchen Animationen lernen 🙂