[Haskell-cafe] Off-topic: Mathematics

Peter Simons simons at cryp.to
Tue Aug 30 22:16:01 CEST 2011

Hi Andrew,

 > I know of several places where I can ask maths questions and half a
 > dozen people will take guesses at what the correct solution might be.
 > I haven't yet found anywhere where I can say "when would a
 > chi-squared test be more appropriate than a KS test?" and get an
 > informed, knowledgeable answer. (Answers from people who /know/ what
 > they're talking about rather than just /think/ they know.)

I believe this phenomenon is quite natural and easily explained. When
you're asking a non-trivial question, hardly anyone just "knows" the
correct answer -- especially when it comes to math. In order to answer
your question, people have to dedicate time and effort to study the
problem you're asking about. (Furthermore, formulating a coherent
response is usually be a bit of an effort, too.)

Now, a person who has profound knowledge of the subject you're asking
about is not very likely to do this, because he is probably not going to
learn anything in the process. Dedicating time and effort to studying
your particular problem is not an appealing prospect. A person who has
superficial understanding of the subject, however, is more likely to be
fascinated by the problem, and consequently he is more likely to
dedicate time and effort into formulating a response.

In other words, even if Donald Knuth himself is reading the forum you're
posting to, it doesn't mean that he is actually going to respond. On the
other hand, if you're asking the right question, Donald Knuth just might
respond to it, but not necessarily in the forum that you were originally
asking in.

Take care,

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