This question of mine is currently sitting at a score of -2, but no one left any comments on how it can be improved. I wonder if some others could weigh in with any suggestions for how the question could be improved for the site.

I have noticed that a lot of people are very sick of questions about the overly popular (after some youtube video) and poorly understood claim that $1+2+3+\dotsb = -\frac{1}{12},$ and will downvote any mention of that equation, which my question does reference.

Could that be the cause of my downvotes? If so I don’t think that’s very fair. But some of the submitted comments seem to have nothing to do with the question, and just reference other threads about that equation. Which would support that hypothesis.

My question is really about understanding (apparently) alternate definitions of Ramanujan summation, I don't care about that particular equation.

Would it be better if I had not mentioned that sum? Should I repost it with just mentions of the Riemann zeta function, instead of the questionable series $1+2+3+\dotsb$?

Thanks in advance

  • 12
    $\begingroup$ Question looks fine to me. No one has voted to close. I wouldn't worry about the downvotes. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2019 at 20:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the feedback @GerryMyerson. I guess I changed the post anyway just to be safe, so that it doesn't mention the groan inducing series. $\endgroup$
    – ziggurism
    Nov 25, 2019 at 21:48
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ A joke isn't really a dad joke... until it's fully groan. Hehe. Imho your question is and was fine: clearly more researched than the more common $1+2+3+\dots=-1/12$ questions. :-) $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2019 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ One of the reasons might be that this famous, but wrong equation "goes round the world" , like the equation $E=mc^2$ by Einstein. It is even used in string theroy. The legitimation by regularizations is weird and probably not unique, another regularization will probably lead to another value of the sum $1+2+3+\cdots $. I admit, the questions is far better than many others that just coin in the equation which baffled many people and many of them still believe it is true in the usual sense. It is understandable that some users are therefore annoyed by this equation. $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Dec 1, 2019 at 15:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I tried this sum on my calculator and after 1 year of nonstop typing, I got a different answer: ERROR! $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 2, 2019 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, reading your post here I get aware that I didn't perceived your question as for understanding the Ramanujan-summation but as for a specific doubt not far away from the "goes round the world"-emotion as in Peter's comment (Note I didn't downvote). I've myself long time struggled with that summation-method (see my older questions here and in mathoverflow) and think I could say something about it, but still not "authoritative". My mind is not so fresh as years ago and would need more motivation to produce "epic" answers, but your introducing specific focus really didn't trigger much. $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2019 at 6:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, you have 3 downvotes, but 30 upvotes. The net is a clear win for you and this indicates a good question. $\endgroup$
    – Randall
    Dec 3, 2019 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Randall Thanks. well I think it's got a lot of upvotes because of this post on meta. Without this it probably would've faded into oblivion at –2 and been auto-deleted. I think it's a question worthy of remaining on the site and a chance at being answered, but the current +30 score seems undeserved. Now I feel guilty, lol. Using meta as a platform to get upvotes. $\endgroup$
    – ziggurism
    Dec 3, 2019 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ I hate these $-{1 \over 12}$ questions. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Dec 5, 2019 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @copper.hat yeah a lot of people say that. i think that was the cause of the downvotes. $\endgroup$
    – ziggurism
    Dec 5, 2019 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ It is the mathematical equivalent of fake news and only serves (in my mind, at least) to derail the legitimacy of mathematics to those who are not equipped to understand where the sensation comes from. Further, because of the contradictory nature, people feel the need to spread it far & wide. I just came across a version on medium I think and the author even admits they don't follow the mathematics involved. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Dec 5, 2019 at 20:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ziggurism: Your question is well worded and does not fall into my hate category. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Dec 5, 2019 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @copper.hat thanks. Zeta function is fine, I'm just trying to understand Ramanujan better. The current version of the question doesn't even mention the objectionable sum, so there's no more reason to downvote. But even the original version was defensible IMO $\endgroup$
    – ziggurism
    Dec 5, 2019 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @ziggurism: My general reaction when I see $-{1 \over 12}$ is to reach for the vaporiser. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Dec 5, 2019 at 21:02

1 Answer 1


Mentioning the series is fine. Most people just mention the series, but the reason they get downvoted or closed is usually that their questions don't show effort, and so it gets flagged as missing context. Your question clearly shows effort, so it wouldn't be closed.


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