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sci.math FAQ: Introduction


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Archive-Name: sci-math-faq/introduction
Last-modified: December 8, 1994
Version: 6.2


   
   
   
                                INTRODUCTION
                                       
   
   
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
     * Why a list of Frequently Asked Questions?
     * Frequently Asked Questions in Mathematics?
       
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   
   
   The Net, as users call the Internet, and specially newsgroups, (i.e.
   Usenet) created a demand of knowledge without parallel since the
   invention of the printing press. Surprisingly, the type of knowledge
   demanded from and by the Usenet community had, in most cases, little
   in common -both in structure and content- with that of printed in
   current publications. This defined Usenet as more of an alternative to
   books rather than a replacement thereof [IMAGE]

   In the Net, questions posed are, more often than not, at the level of
   an amateur practitioner -even in cases where the question was posed by
   a professional in the field. Similarly, the quality of the answers
   varies greatly, ranging from the incorrect or disrespectful, to
   summaries of the state of the art in the topic in question.

   Other characteristics of communication on the Net are simply inherited
   from restrictions of the medium. The unit of knowledge is a screenful
   worth of text (a scrit, from screen and bit). Articles exceeding that
   limit are usually disregarded.

   The lack of memory of the medium generates a repetition of topics,
   much to the chagrin of old time citizens of the Net. Frequently asked
   questions lists palliate some of these deficiencies by providing a
   record of relevant information while at the same time never being
   outdated.

   Thus, typically a list of frequently asked questions is ``posted'' at
   least once a month, and updated at least as frequently. And, in what
   must be a first for an information based product, FAQ lists ``expire''
   on a given date, very much like any other perishable item.


Frequently Asked Questions in Mathematics?



   If I had to describe the contents of the FAQ in Mathematics in a
   single sentence, I would call it mathematical gossip or perhaps
   non-trivial mathematical trivia.

   The FAQ list is a compilation of knowledge of interest to most
   professional and amateur mathematicians, ranging from advanced topics
   such as Wiles' proposed proof to Fermat's Last Theorem to the list of
   Fields Medal winners.





    alopez-o@barrow.uwaterloo.ca
    Tue Apr 04 17:26:57 EDT 1995







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