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Christina's LIS Rant
Thursday, April 07, 2005
  What if Fermat had been a blogger?
I finally started reading Penrose's Road to Reality (not in Open WorldCat yet) yesterday and I got to the part where he's describing the Platonic view of mathematics vs. the subjective view; or rather, what mathematical statements are objectively true. He mentions the case of Fermat's last theorem. What struck me is that Fermat wrote that he had a proof of theorem in the margin of the book he was reading -- but he never wrote out the proof. A proof of the theorem was finally published in 1995.

Personal information/personal knowledge management was a problem then, too! Not that I've ever come up with anything nearly so interesting, but this is one of the main reasons I blog. If I come up with an idea, but don't have the time to pursue it to its conclusion or if I want to get it down to think about it later, I blog it.

For another view on this see Mathemagenic. 1) Re-reading my own weblog and research blogging 2) Her series, Weblog as a Research Notebook (1, 2, 3, 4)

Can we as librarians or information scientists, help the modern day Fermats better record their lightbulb ideas WITHOUT forcing draconian document management rules or inconvenient database entries? For online findings, we can implement some sort of del.icio.us thingy, but what about interpersonal communications (offline) and things found serendipitously from environmental cues (print materials, lab experiments, environmental observations)? For print materials, there's a home library catalog software that runs on Macs that allows you to take a digital photograph of the barcode on the back of a book (the one for the bookseller, not the library one!). It goes out to Amazon and retrieves a cover image and metadata about the book. Could we ask the scientist/mathematician/engineer to carry a camera phone (except if they work in a closed area or on a military base or...) and kind of snap something, then add a podcast note, which will then be made into text, categorized, abstracted and stored for later use? Could we run feature extraction to add searchable information about the thing that was photographed?

Would this help? Would Fermat have talked through his proof to a voicemail system?


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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina's LIS Rant by Christina K. Pikas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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