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Are there mathemaics competition for professional mathematician?

  1. Jul 20, 2006 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2006 #2

    mathwonk

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    do you mean like weekend mathematical paintball games? competition in mathematics is measured by relative success in your field. The Clay prize problems are a specifically announced mathematical competition, with each problem being worth a million dollars. But many mathematicians ignore such competitions because they prefer to work on problems that interest them intrinsically rather than respond to financial inducements. (See the lovely interview with Bott a few years ago.) But universities do like these financial inducements and care more about the prizes and money their staff bring in than about the intellectual content of them. So in a sense NSF and other rgants are a mathematical competition, particualrly since without money and the time it buys, it is ahrd to do your own research, and especially hard to buy time for your grad students to do theirs.
     
  4. Jul 21, 2006 #3
    There are 6 clay prize if i remember correctly. what i have in mind are easiler problems. There are chess competitions. programming competitons, scrabble competitons. Why are there not a competiton for math? i think the subject can better be benefited if there are some competitive sporting elements to it like chess.
     
  5. Jul 21, 2006 #4

    matt grime

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    Why shuold there be? Are there competitions for chemisty, physics, philosophy? Mathematics is not an inherently competitive (in your confrontational sense) thing. There is no need or scope, or possibility for mathematical competitions like these. It takes days, weeks, months, or even years to prove things in mathematics. There isn't an exercise sheet for us to do, you know.
     
  6. Jul 21, 2006 #5

    mathwonk

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    there is a college student level contest, the putnam exam, as you probably know.

    and for some reason there were such competitions hundreds of years ago, such as contests at solving cubic equations, but that was before the cubic formula was generally known.

    i think professional mathematicians just do not see any relationship between answering necessarily shallow questions quickly, and doing math research. so it doesn't interest them. most of us did such things as children though.

    i do recall once as a grad student bragging about having won a statewide math contest to a friend who quickly silenced me by remarking he had won a nationwide one (in a nation 4 or 5 times the size of my state.)
     
  7. Jul 21, 2006 #6
    aren't the competitions called trying to find funding?
     
  8. Jul 21, 2006 #7

    mathwonk

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    well thats what i said earlier about the nsf grant process being a competition. its very tough too, since the amount of money is limited. and ones opinion of the applicants does not always match the list of recipients

    the decision process has changed also to make it more "efficient". they do not send out as many solicitations to people in your field who know you, rather a smaller group of high level people tend to make more decisions, so if they don't know your work, it may be too bad.

    most people would probably agree the best people do get funded, but the other people from smaller places have a harder time geting known.

    for example i never got funded until i visited at harvard, then all of a sudden i got funded for the same work i had done before. it seems the people at harvard were making most of the decisions so it helped immensely to meet them.

    ultimately though it matters what you are doing, plus a smattering of who knows about it. so it helps to travel, give talks, publish promptly, and actually apply for grants in a timely fashion.


    in spite of grants supposedly being meant to encourage ratehr than reward good work, thats just not possible in rpactice, since crystal balls are so rare, so be sure to apply right after geting some good results.
     
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