Category Archives: Maths

Chaos, Solitons and Fractals

John Baez has an excellent post on the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals. In particular he is interested in the curious fact that one of the editors has had an amazing 322 papers published in the journal. On closer examination Baez suggests that a number of these papers are essentially numerology hiding behind a bit of genuine maths and physics. Anyone with an interest in maths &/or physics should follow the link to read the details, but it is also of more general interest for anyone who has followed the controversy over the big scientific publishers, particularly the much criticised Elsevier.

Baez writes

Now, I get crud like this in my email every day.  I delete it without comment.  What makes this case different is that El Naschie gets to publish these papers in a superficially respectable journal that he actually edits.

The fact that Elsevier would let Naschie edit this journal and publish large numbers of papers like this in it shows that their system for monitoring the quality of their journals is broken.

The fact that this journal costs $4520 per year would be hilarious, except that libraries are actually buying it — at a reduced rate, bundled in with other Elsevier journals, but still!

It is worth following the long comments thread at the n-Category Café as various readers find unusual things in Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, including two near identical papers, a number of sockpuppets come to El Naschie’s defence, and readers puzzle over the details of his background and current affiliation. No doubt there is more to this story which is still to emerge.

See also Backreaction, The Quantum Pontiff and Ars Technica.

Maths Degrees at Half Price

The Labor party propose to halve the cost of maths and science degrees. An excellent suggestion, though in my opinion it doesn’t really get to the heart of the current problems with the mathematical sciences in Australia as outlined in this recent study (see also commentary on this at Larvatus Prodeo), the real problem is the massive funding cuts to universities by the Howard government which have hit less industry-oriented faculties like maths and pure sciences (and also others such as the Arts) particularly hard as universities depend more on outside funding. Furthermore there is a change towards more vocational courses (and less demanding ones) as universities compete for the student dollar, leaving the fundamental disciplines struggling.
So what has Howard done for the mathematical sciences lately? Well, he asked Australia’s first Fields medalist Terence Tao what country he was from. Of course if Howard knew more about the state of the mathematical sciences he’d actually ask “what country did you go to?” (link to PDF).

UPDATE: The education minister disagrees with Labor’s plan, basically because it won’t fix the problems … the problems that her Government created that is. The universities on the other hand are rather keen on the plan. Of course what the minister says is not in total disagreement with what I said, I also don’t think it will fix everything, but I do think that something has to be done and this would achieve some good.