Just going through the questions tagged partial-differential-equations, I saw that many of them are unanswered and have zero upvotes. Is there a good reason why these types of questions are kind of ignored by the community?


Poincaré constant for a ball (circle)

Linearization of PDE: $0$ is an eigenvalue since all translates of travelling waves are also travelling waves

A finite vibrating string initial value problem, solve using separation of variables [Solved]

Reaction-diffusion equations

Taking $\inf$ for sobolev space in different order

More questions with this tag https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/pde

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    $\begingroup$ Umm, analysis is... hard? The first Q in your list asks to find a best possible constant in a certain estimate. It seems to me the answer offered is a pretty good one there, but I don't have the same opinion of the Q. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 2:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: Why are there so few questions for the pde tag in math.SE? $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 3:19
  • 35
    $\begingroup$ It's a conspiracy organized by Big Algebra. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 4:01

1 Answer 1


I think that you suffer from a case of specialist's myopia. As I may have also been diagnosed with it let me elaborate.

The calculus (or elementary number theory, not to mention high school level stuff) questions get a lot of attention in comparison to more specialized tags simply because there are more users A) understanding what the question is about, and B) feeling like they have a shot at answering it well enough to earn a few upvotes.

One of the early symptoms of the onset of specialist's myopia is the desire to complain about the perceived relative lack of attention to your area of interest. As the disease progresses what can happen is that you realize that the mechanism described in the preceding paragraph is an auto-catalytic process - more and more calculus questions, askers and answerers are attracted to the site, drowning everything else. In a severe case a patient begins to develop attitudes like:

  • There are only 40 calculus questions, so you starting hunting for duplicates within that tag to get the excess closed as duplicates. You can do the same to any overrepresented tag of your choice.
  • You begin to contemplate downvoting those questions (could the lazy bums at least search the site before asking).
  • You begin to contemplate downvoting the answers to those questions (could the lazy bums at least search the site before answering).
  • Why can't this site implement a point formula with a result that the value of an answer is inversely proportional to the number of users capable of producing it!

The bad news is that no permanent cure to SM is currently known. However, the symptoms can be alleviated by:

  • Using a question filter. Some patients say that weeding out totally uninteresting tags helps. Even more non-patients suggest this as a remedy. Didn't help me.
  • Blowing off some esteem in Meta (this does help - if only temporarily).
  • Carrying out the simple arithmetic revealing that calculus answerers rarely get more upvotes per post - it is just the highly visible questions that distort the view.
  • Coding and running SEDE queries to reveal more such facts.
  • Occasionally getting some fresh air.
  • Joining a support group. Plenty of good advice there. Some sympathetic ears, some not so sympathetic. Share your story!

If it makes you feel better, here's a comparison. Currently we have 6770 questions with the pde tag. They run to 135 pages (50 questions/page). When sorted by votes, the zero count questions begin on page 97, so a bit less than 30 per cent of the questions have a non-positive score. I am the self-appointed curator of the finite-fields tag. Currently we have 1609 questions carrying that tag. That is 33 pages. When sorted by vote the first zero score question occurs on page 26. About the same percentage. But your tag has more total attention and material! Go figure?

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    $\begingroup$ If your dirty imagination associates something else with the acronym SM then I'm afraid I cannot help. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ Pity you can't help, I always had a soft spot for these. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ "Blowing off some esteem" Is this a typo or some rare idiom? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: I've seen that phrase describe an unintended side effect of "blowing off steam". After all, a rant often says more about the person standing on the soapbox than about whatever they are complaining about. Resulting in a net loss of esteem in the eyes of the audience. TL;DR; An attempt at a pun. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ I never heard this, but it seemed fitting in a way but it could have been auto-correct too. So...Thanks for the clarification. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 14:16
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "Why can't this site implement a point formula with a result that the value of an answer is inversely proportional to the number of users capable of producing it!" That would be the most wonderful thing in the Stack Exchange universe. +1 $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 3:12

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