27 March 2008

Stuff mathematicians like?

You probably by now know about the blog Stuff White People Like, which talks about stuff white people like.

By "white people", the blog doesn't mean all white people, but rather white urban twenty- and thirty-somethings with money to burn.

Stuff white people like (according to the blog) that I'd guess a lot of mathematicians also like include coffee (if you don't know why, you're probably not a mathematician), "Gifted" children (lots of mathematicians probably were), Apple products (mostly judging from what sort of computer colloquium and seminar speakers are running, although this could be skewed by the fact that Apple users, being in the minority, are probably more likely to bring their own machine), not arts degrees (arts degrees apparently make people more interesting to talk to at parties, a concept entirely foreign to us), graduate school (although it seems to be humanities PhD programs that they're referring to), and bad memories of high school.

There are also a lot of less-good imitations: Stuff Educated Black People Like, Stuff Lesbians Like, Stuff Gay Guys Like, Stuff College People Like, Stuff Asian People Like, Stuff White Trash People Like, Stuff Unimaginative Bloggers Like, and perhaps others.

But what about "Stuff Mathematicians Like"? I know that I wouldn't do a good job with it -- but someone should. I'll get you started -- the set of stuff mathematicians like includes coffee, Rubik's Cubes, saying things are trivial, being proud of the uselessness of one's work, and the prefix "co-". (So what is "ffee"? Okay, there's another thing mathematicians like -- bad jokes.) Feel free to name other elements of this set.


Anonymous said...

Nonconstructive proofs? M. C. Escher?

Jackie Ballarini said...

Answering questions logically. I often respond to "or" questions with a yes. Which drives people crazy.

Maurizio Monge said...

What about juggling? :)

Mohsin said...

ok that was trivial :-)

Aaron said...

What about juggling? :)

Yeah... what's WITH that? It doesn't seem like a very inherently mathematical activity!

Anonymous said...

Misuse of the word "elementary".

.mau. said...

ffee is 65518 decimal, if I did not goof.

(you were talking about love for bad jokes?)

Gabe said...

Morphisms (especially iso-) and subscripts.

Anonymous said...

Anything having to do with "homo": homomorphism, homology, cohomolgy, homotopy, group homotopy, etc.

Of course, this is NOT to suggest that they are gay or anything!

FM said...

i think some of the other "stuff ___ like" sites serve other purposes and are received differently simply by who the authors are.

for example, the "stuff asian people like" looks like it intends to educate non-asians about asian idiosyncrasies.

anyway, the reason why "stuff white people like" succeeds is that there are no inside jokes when you're talking about white people. everyone gets the jokes, because white people are pretty much the norm.

"stuff educated black people like" is written in a similar style as "stuff white people like" and with similar intentions, i.e. poking fun at the upper-middle-class in that particular demographic, but it doesn't have the same effect, because when you're part of a minority group making fun of a subset within the minority group, the all-encompassing majority culture is not included in that equation, and the site becomes an inside joke rather than a pan-cultural phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Certainly this set belongs in the set...

More seriously, mathematicians, (perhaps with no exceptions?) like what they study.

There really aren't lesser members of the class who would rather be expending their mental energy elsewhere.

So, mathematicians like math. (and if that doesn't count because it's trivial, then mathematicians like calling things trivial)


Michael Lugo said...


that reminds me of the definition that "mathematics is what mathematicians do". A more sophisticated version of that definition can be found in Thurston's "On Proof and Progress in Mathematics" (arXiv:math/9404236v1), where a definition is proposed:

"we might say that mathematics is the smallest subject satisfying the
- Mathematics includes the natural numbers and plane and solid geometry.
- Mathematics is that which mathematicians study.
- Mathematicians are those humans who advance human understanding of

Anonymous said...

Well am a math Major and i love love i love when i finally get to the end of a problem. Is quit amazing how things just fit in to place when you do it right. That is what i enjoy the most. :)