# Why was the soft question on the beauty of mathematics closed?

Why was the following question closed:

What was the first bit of mathematics that made you realize that math is beautiful? (For children's book)

• i did make a feature request about scaling the votes for close and reopen a question Mar 12 '13 at 13:37
• Thanks. That wasn't actually the point of my question, but I became jaded as I realised the -erm- long-windedness of it all...which led to the comments to your answer... Mar 12 '13 at 13:44
• It seems to have been reopened. Mar 15 '13 at 18:33

I did vote for closing with the following reasons:

At first I think that this kind of question didn't really fit on this site, as it says in the faq, which questions can I ask here:

• Understanding mathematical concepts and theorems
• History and development of mathematics
• Solving mathematical puzzles
• Software that mathematicians use

Although it might be a nice question (at least a very popular one), I can't see that it fits in one of those categories.
In special it says at what questions shall I not ask here:

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.

And I think (and the 100 answers support this) that this totally fits.

• Mind you, we are not required by the International Court of Justice in the Hague to follow the faq. The community can develop its own criteria and standards which may be in conflict with the faq, and who's to judge? Mar 12 '13 at 12:18
• We are the judge! I didn't start the vote, I was the person who made the fifth vote. I mean everyone (with enough reputation) can vote for reopen the question, and there is only 1 vote needed for reopening. But I think the faq makes sense and helps to run the site. In my opinion such a opinion based question isn't helpfull on this site. Mar 12 '13 at 12:31
• @DominicMichaelis: The question is open again. If "We are the judge!" then a different committee of five can close it, and another committee opens it, and another committee closes it, and...and...etc. With such a large question, a committee of five is not enough. Mar 12 '13 at 12:58
• (And with the first vote to close, it begins.........) Mar 12 '13 at 13:08
• Each of us gets only one vote, so each open-close round may get harder to complete. Mar 12 '13 at 13:09
• @GEdgar: Sure, but is this really the optimal solution? Vote in groups of five until everyone has had their say? Mar 12 '13 at 13:13
• What we need is a "don't close" button that decrements the close vote counter.
– user856
Mar 12 '13 at 18:28
• @user1729 If the "close war" continues, this meta discussion should help the moderators decide how to proceed - either by locking the question to prevent future closing/reopening or deleting it if the community consensus here on meta is that the question doesn't belong. This would be one of those exceptional situations that moderators exist to handle.
Mar 12 '13 at 18:30

I vote to close because I feel the good answers have already been given.

It is unsafe to assume that a question has no more good answers. Keeping things open allows some access to the "long tail" of rare answers.

• Yes, definitely. One good new answer is equal to six repeated claims that Gauss invented the summation formula when he was 11, along with the additional surprise that no one posted it before on the thread...
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Mar 12 '13 at 23:30
• @Asaf, I don't know about you, but I don't have the magical ability to know when a question has been exhausted, and have consistently been surprised (in areas where I have expertise) to see answers that I could not have predicted, new connections between things I thought I had understood, etc.
– zyx
Mar 12 '13 at 23:35
• True. But there's a signal to noise ratio. At 100+ answers, the ratio is low enough that I am willing to accept that there's a small probability I'll encounter new good things, and a high probability I'll encounter things that will make me want to scratch my eyeballs off at some point. Furthermore even deleted posts are just sticking out there for 10k's so there's no escape from those either when they do get deleted with an apology. It just sucks.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Mar 12 '13 at 23:36
• Tradeoffs suck, there is no magic bullet, etc - I agree. But something had to be said about the sentiment that "we know what all the good answers are". This is practically never true, but (also very practically) to get things done one has to act most of the time as if it is true.
– zyx
Mar 12 '13 at 23:51
• I agree that trade-offs suck big time. But since I wanted to actually live indoors for the better part of my masters degree I had to teach calculus 2 for engineering students. Not to mention that beer suddenly got expensive in Israel... Yes, trade off suck badly. But this site is busy enough that we can live with them as it is.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Mar 12 '13 at 23:53
• Right. It is good to recognize them where they exist, though.
– zyx
Mar 12 '13 at 23:53
• By the way, if you think teaching engineering students at HUJ (?) is a significant tradeoff you might feel better after visiting some other universities in other countries. @AsafKaragila
– zyx
Mar 12 '13 at 23:59
• No, I was teaching engineering in BGU (HUJI had let me TA an advanced logic course, which is wonderful for me). I did this for two spring semesters and it sucked really hard. I honestly feel that I could have finished my thesis much sooner otherwise.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Mar 13 '13 at 0:00
• I have the feeling BGU is light years ahead of the institutions I am thinking of. @asaf
– zyx
Mar 13 '13 at 0:03
• It is possible. But the point remains valid. I still don't understand how Lagrange multipliers work, or how to apply them properly.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Mar 13 '13 at 0:05
• Yes yes, I know the idea when I meet it. But it's far from understandable on how it works. As long as I don't have to teach it this semester! Huzzah.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Mar 13 '13 at 0:14

Personally I vote to close because I feel the good answers have already been given.

The answers from Devdatta Tengshe, LaceySnr, and poke were quite nice, but I've seen angles in a triangle add to 180, the visual Pythagorean theorem proof, and especially $e^{i\pi}=-1$ and $0.9999\ldots = 1$ on this site so many times it gives me headaches. (Just look at this.) I don't criticize the users for posting these answers - they were valid responses to that question, which itself is not a duplicate - but I don't think we need to repeat ourselves anymore, and I don't predict anyone posting new, useful answers. In other words, I voted to close because I think the question ran its course, and we should move on to other things.

• Are you suggesting that there are only a finite number of reasons why mathematicians find maths beautiful? Mar 12 '13 at 19:48
• @user1729 There are probably a finite number which can go into a children's book. ;)
– Alexander Gruber Mod
Mar 12 '13 at 20:08
• True, but if the children's book was only to include the most common answers then it would just be like every other children's book on maths... Mar 13 '13 at 10:23
• one doesn't have to read all the answers. I think its good to have the occasional soft question. Mar 14 '13 at 5:06
• Nobody's forcing you to read the "new" answers, or this kind of question which obviously baits these answers at all. Closing a question means "this question is not supposed to be here and therefore shouldn't be answered at all". If you think the amount of answer should be limited, that's what protection (only users with at least 10 math-rep can post new answers) and locking (no more answers or voting possible) are for Mar 14 '13 at 14:35

I cast one of the five votes to close. Here was my reason:

To me, the question, "What was the first bit of mathematics that made you realize that math is beautiful?" is really similar to the question, "What do you like about math?" or perhaps "What is your favorite concept / proof / aspect of math?"

In my opinion, this level of breadth is too much for this site.

• Would downvoter(s) please care to say what part they disagree with? Is my analogy not good? Or do you feel that "What do you like about math?" is a good fit for this site's format? Or you just expressing a preference that the question remain open? I'd like to hear the community's thoughts in more detail than an up/down vote score. Mar 15 '13 at 1:18
• I am an up voter. I don't disagree with you. I love math. I have mathematics degrees. I also studied and played classical music, flute and piccolo, favorites were Vivaldi, Telemann, Mozart, and yes, Bach. Yet I didn't find Godel, Escher, Bach of much interest. I get bored with Fibonacci series in nature. I don't understand the many "beauty of math" books, mostly because they are wordy, belabored so I lose interest quickly. I am NOT autistic. I like reading literature. I like many of the focused "soft" questions on Math SE, but agree with you and meta.math.stackexchange.com/a/8766/9260 Mar 23 '13 at 0:46