I looked for tweets from the events of the first day of the Clay Mathematics Institute Workshop on Mochizuki’s inter-universal Teichmüller theory, especially from the discussions scheduled to end at 18:00 GMT. No tweets, but I did find an exceptionally thorough 3200-word article by Agnes Handwerk, published last June on the website of Deutschlandradio Kultur, entitled Wann ist ein Beweis richtig? [When is a proof correct?]. If you listen to the 30-minute broadcast you will recognize the voices of Gerd Faltings, Norbert Schappacher, Minhyong Kim (under a German voiceover), and Samuel Patterson, among other mathematicians — and sociologists. Mochizuki’s proof is treated alongside Heegner’s solution of the class number one problem as examples of proposed solutions to important problems that were not immediately recognized as such. It takes an unusually theoretically-oriented radio audience to appreciate the aim of Handwerk’s explicitly sociological account of Wahrheitsfindung in der Mathematik.
Back in 2008, Handwerk wrote (and broadcast) a no less densely extraordinary piece on the occasion of Grothendieck’s 80th birthday, entitled Geometry and Revolt; for this she won the Journalism Prize of the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung. (With Harrie Willems, Handwerk also produced a biographical video of Yuri I. Manin and another one about Wolfgang Doeblin.) While waiting for the white smoke of Wahrheitsfindung to float (or not) above Oxford you can do worse than read Handwerk’s articles.
Update: When I posted this yesterday I was unable to retrieve the one-line summary of Handwerk’s sociological thesis. Here it is:
Und es besteht ein Gegensatz zwischen dem Kreativen, dem freien ungebundenen Denken, und dem Normativen, den Regeln der Community.
which means (roughly) “there is a conflict between the Creative — free unbound thinking — and the Normative, the rules of the community.” Handwerk’s sociological reference is Pierre Bourdieu, as read by the contemporary Berlin sociologist Christian Schneikert. That’s a somewhat strange choice; Bourdieu didn’t focus on consensus formation in the sciences.
A first tweet by math_jin reports that Felipe Voloch is reporting on the conference from Google+. Voloch’s feed is being followed actively. Journalists take note!
Update: Der Spiegel published a 300-word piece on the Oxford conference entitled Todeszone der Mathematik.
In diesen Höhen ist die Luft der Abstraktion so dünn, dass Halluzinationen auftreten.
The journalist compares attempting to follow the explanations of Mochizuki’s work to the consequences of reading Monty Python’s Funniest Joke in the World. (Update of update: I have just been reminded that there was already a Monty Python comment in Davide Castelvecchi’s Nature article, the subject of this earlier post.) There’s a sensible discussion of what’s behind the Spiegel article on scienceblogs.de.
I’d be curious to know what the internet is saying in Japanese and Chinese. There’s quite a lot of material and I would be grateful for translations.