I tried posting this question in MSE. The first comment that appeared was this:

If you used your real name people could attempt to determine whether your opinion on this particular topic was worth anything.

I tried very hard to be polite in all my responses. I think I did a good job of that---up to the last post, I guess---but anyway, I apologize for any frustrated conduct. I am a research mathematician who is genuinely concerned for his field. I'm sorry to pick on Argyros. I did so because he is a clear genius and an established senior mathematician who has nothing to fear from MSE posts. I confess, I have no idea who Giorgos Petsoulas is, or if he might get some flak from this. Perhaps I should have chosen an Argyros solo paper. But, what's done is done.

After not too many minutes, the question was voted down and put on hold. This surprised me greatly. I think maybe it is because I want to remain anonymous, but if there is some other reason, I would be happy to adapt to MSE guidelines. But, whatever the reason, please tell me, because I really want to discuss this topic. Badly.

Anyway, is there some way we could re-open this MSE question? Or, could I be permitted to make a new post on the same topic (using a different example)?

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    $\begingroup$ This is not the forum for such posts. Indeed, regardless whether it was your intention, the post is indistinguishable from what is called "trolling" on the internet. If you are having a crisis of faith about your profession (don't we all from time to time?) your colleagues in your department are perhaps a better audience than anonymous strangers on the internet. Personally, I don't think your anonymity is especially relevant - the question would likely be closed anyway if asked by someone using their real name. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, I cannot agree with the first comment you received on main. But this does not imply that your question is based on facts (it is not) or that it is appropriate to the site. $\endgroup$
    – Did
    Sep 13 '15 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ The question struck me as dishonest - the paper exists in a context, and yet you do not discuss this at all. The authors allude to other works and obviously had a purpose in writing it, yet the question presents it as if this random abstract result was proven in a vacuum. What answer can be given to a question which shows no evidence of having even tried to understand the reason the paper was written? $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 16:27

Those sorts of discussion-based questions are not really the purpose of the Stack Exchange family of sites. From our don't ask page:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

I would expect any similarly-purposed question to be closed for the same reason your original question was: it is primarily opinion-based, and

answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the response. The thing is, I don't think this is open-ended, impractical, unanswerable, or not based on actual problems that I face. And it certainly isn't "chatty"! Like I said in one of my comments, it seems to me that there is a definite answer as to whether or not there are practical applications to this line of research. I fail to see how it is opinion-based. (Judgment is not the same as opinion.) $\endgroup$
    – user270237
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ Let us think of it this way: Is it really off-limits of MSE to discuss the potential usefulness (or uselessness) of a particular line of research? That seems very odd. It seems that mathematicians should be very interested in identifying which lines of research are most practical. $\endgroup$
    – user270237
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ What do you think of just carrying on the conversation on meta? I wanted to tag it with banach-spaces, but if I can't so be it. $\endgroup$
    – user270237
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ Whether or not some piece of mathematics is "useless" is entirely dependent on what someone considers "useful", which is itself a matter of opinion. And I'll remind you that G.H. Hardy elevated his own "useless" mathematics far above the lower "applied mathematics"; too bad he didn't live long enough to see the advent of puclic-key cryptography. $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ @user270237 This is not a "website for mathematicians" where anything that could be of interest to mathematicians can be posted. "How do I get an ERC grant?" is probably a question that interests many mathematicians, but it's completely off-topic here. "Where can I buy cheap, strong, good coffee in bulk" is also an example. Simply being of interest to mathematicians isn't good enough justification for a question to be on-topic on this website. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I completely agree that "usefulness"/"uselessness" is, to some degree, subjective. But, I think that is parsing things too finely. What if the only "use" is impressing people and getting a job? $\endgroup$
    – user270237
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:41
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    $\begingroup$ @user270237 Perhaps the applications are way beyond our current comprehension. It is precisely this short-sighted cry for "valorisation" that threatens the proper academical inquiry driven by curiosity and enthusiasm instead of money on the short term. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ Finally this part of the site (meta.math) is not for meta-mathematical discussions. It's for questions (like the present one) about the main site, or the underlying Stack Exchange system and software. So carrying on your discussion here would be shot down rather quickly, too. $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ @user270237 If you want to discuss meta-mathematics, then I guess Philosophy could be a good bet (but be sure to check what they consider on- or off-topic). $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @user270237, I think philosophy is a good choice. If I have to do that, I guess I will. But don't you think this is a topic for MSE? I'm not debating the existence of numbers or the reality of an actual infinite. Rather, I'm talking about the policies of research-level math academia. That seems to be most suited to MSE, not a philosophy forum. Please, don't condemn me to talking to Pruss! $\endgroup$
    – user270237
    Sep 13 '15 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ @user270237: the policies of research level math academia are certainly off-topic on this site, which is only intended for mathematical questions. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ No, I don't think it matters what your name is. We can judge the question without that information, and as several have said the question is simply not included in the topics that this site aims to discuss. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ In principle, you could make a meta post (such as this one) about the policy. I think you will find that this policy is considered foundational to the site by a large number of participants, and so I think it is unlikely to change. However, as long as you post in moderation, you are welcome like everyone else to lobby for a change to the policy. First, you should see if there are already posts about the topic here on meta.math.stachexchange.com - new posts on old topics are often closed as duplicates unless they are written in a way that moves beyond the older posts. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe that the original post about the uselessness of Banach spaces would be welcomed on academia.stackexchange.com either. The first place to look is academia.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask If it was rewritten in a more philosophical way, it might be reasonable on the philosophy stackexchange site, but I am not very familiar with their policies. @Najib $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Carl Well it can go either way, if the question is about what makes mathematics useful then Philosophy could work, if it's about "a specific example of the problems many of us sense in academia" (I'm quoting the question) then Academia could work. In both cases the question needs some serious rewriting, the core principles of SE ("ask a clear, focused, answerable... question") are the same on each site. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '15 at 12:47

On the topic of anonymity...

Your post can essentially be summarized as "I think this is useless; prove me wrong."

You are probability familiar with the fact that these sorts of challenges come up all the time from anonymous sources, and often have little substance to them and are unrewarding to respond to.

Now, if you happen to be a well-respected name in the subject to the extent that people listen when you speak your opinion, then attaching your name to the post has the possibility of getting some people to take you seriously when they would have otherwise dismissed the posting.

That said, being taken seriously doesn't imply that your question is actually on-topic for MSE. (which is an issue that this answer does not intend to address)


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