Aunt Pythia’s advice
Hello and good morning! Aunt Pythia is feeling well-slept (thankfully!) and happy to be here.
Another Saturday morning means – yes – another ride on the Aunt Pythia advice bus, which is leisurely rolling out of the parking lot with a full pot of fresh brewed coffee ready. Can you smell it, people?!!
Plus, there’s a full kitchen on board (who knew?!) and Aunt Pythia has a poffertje pan in one hand and buckwheat flour in the other, and while we’re sipping our coffees we can also look forward to some sweet buttery deliciousness, kinda like this:
Are your mouths watering? I bet they are. Please enjoy the column and your version of Dutch poffertjes, and then:
please think of something to ask Aunt Pythia at the bottom of the page!
I am almost out of questions!!!
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I recently came across a math paper that is blatantly plagiarized; it also appears to be published twice. The paper(s) in question are:
The latter is not available online, so I am only guessing that it is the same, but there is strong circumstantial evidence, e.g. same title, same bibliography, comparable length. Compare these to
starting in section 4.
My question is: what action, if any, is it appropriate for me to take about this? Options might include writing to mathscinet, to the editors of the journals that published the plagiarized papers, or to the employers of the plagiarizer works. One might also consider attempts at public shaming, e.g. by posting my accusations, identifying the author, on your blog? (or rather, by trying to bait you into posting….). Or doing nothing, since arguably it’s not my business anyway.
I do not know the author, do not know anything about him other than these papers, do not work in the same field, expect never to meet him.
Dear Perplexed Reader,
Hmm. This isn’t my field – and wasn’t even when I was publishing papers in academic math – but I think you might be on to something.
Since I have access to the Columbia library system, I was able to look at the first of those two and the other guy’s papers, and I can see that there is a striking similarity in the equations and the stated result. But someone in the field would be a better judge of how similar it is and how likely it could be a mistake. Maybe you are in a close enough field and have already come to that conclusion. It seems you have.
It also seems weird that they guy has published the same paper in two journals, but given that he also has the same exact name on both, it doesn’t seem to be a way to game his resume, right? Because wouldn’t it be weird to have the same name on two papers? With the same abstracts?
So, it’s definitely weird. And that guy is reachable, I found him on the web with an attached email. However, the second guy has passed away.
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what I’d do if I were you. It’s definitely none of your business in some way, but then again you are likely a mathematician and want the field of mathematics to be kept honest.
Here’s an idea: write to the editor of the journals in question and make them aware of the problem. I honestly don’t think you bother writing to the plagiarizer at all.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I just finished my first year of college, and now that I’m back home for the summer, I’ve learned about all the various cool (read: the kinds that I want) internships my high school peers have gotten. Some of the particularly prestigious ones went to classmates whom I didn’t like, and it’s hard for me to not compare myself to them. They were the ones who were pretty, well-rounded and popular, the ones everybody worshipped because they made it to the Ivy Leagues and similar institutions.
This feeling of sadness + inadequacy has hit me quite often in the past, but I’ve been able to quell it by turning to my math textbooks, my sources of comfort. But lately, that technique doesn’t work. I can’t help but feel that my love for math, especially given my mediocrity at it, is just a ruse to cover up my inability to be pretty, well-rounded, and popular–in other words, “successful” like my classmates. Deep down, I believe that I could be a math babe, but I have a hard time embracing it as I am aware that I might one day go down the stereotypical awkward math nerd path–and just fall by the wayside in the eyes of my peers.
What should I do?
Sad Golden Bear
Ready for some cold comfort? I got plenty.
First, those internships are probably horrible. They’re probably just getting coffee from grumpy dilettantes. Even if that’s not true it will help to assume it.
Second, to the extent they are rubbing elbows with powerful people, the structure of their position dictates that they be worshipful and grateful to these powerful people. Fuck that, never be worshipful of anyone, especially just because they’re powerful or successful. Gross.
Third, there are plenty of amazing things you can do without a formal setup internship. Back in my day there was no such thing as an internship, so we figured out projects over the summers. I worked at Fair Foods in Dorchester, MA the summer after my first year of college, volunteering and loading trucks. My pay was my room and board, and it was awesome. Go find something meaningful to do with yourself, don’t depend on other people’s organizational skills, because they will only send you to artificially constructed or corporate environments.
Fourth, math skillz are sexier and more valuable than you now know. Plus they last longer than prettiness and popularity. Keep it up and you will eventually be one of the cool kids. Plus everyone always thinks their math abilities are subpar, it’s a good sign that yours are just fine.
Fifth and finally, and this is the coldest comfort of all, being on the outside helps you understand the construct of social stratification and the pain of being excluded. Remember this for later when you are one of the cool kids, so you will always have empathy for outsiders.
Dear Auntie P,
I’ve been following your columns about empathy and the math community. I also just read this and I’m afraid that my boyfriend just isn’t nice!
As you might expect, he’s also not so nice when I try to point out to him how it’s making me feel sometimes. It makes him feel misunderstood. He’s got lots of wonderful traits, and I love him and he loves me. What can we do?
In love with Mr. Unnice Guy
Dear In love,
I am actually in the midst of planning a “how to have a happy marriage” post, so this is pretty good timing. You haven’t given me much to go on, so I’ll just make a bunch of assumptions.
First, here’s the thing, you don’t need your boyfriend to be “nice”. You just need to trust him. He can be a grump and he can even kick cats when they walk in front of him, but if you trust him to love you and to be on your side and to be on your team, then that’s fine, although you might want to extend sympathy with the cats.
But wait, does your boyfriend spend a lot of time criticizing you? Is he truly unkind to you? Then leave him. He’s not on your team. No kidding. And you guys don’t even have kids, imagine what it would be like for you to see him treat your kids like that.
But if he is generally kind to you, and he seems somewhat detached from the world around him, we’re in a gray area. It will depend on how it affects your life. If he kicks your cat, that won’t do. Judgement call, although sometimes trainable – as in, you might be able to train him on some little things. And if you want to know more about the training, you’ll need to give me more precise scenarios.
Well, it happened yet again. Invited a guy I was crushing on to my party. Seemed to me that he has been flirting with me for a while. At party, he immediately falls for a friend instead. I am so sick of this shit. I am really pretty, smart, funny, etc. Are there somehow just amazing women who are totally unlovable, and what the fuck is wrong with me. I really fear this will end badly once my last shreds of hope and self worth have eroded.
Never The One
You are totally lovable, don’t forget it. And yes, gorgeous and sexy and brilliant. Just FYI.
Plus, I have some great advice for you, my friend.
Namely, you need to recruit your girlfriends to the cause. What was this friend thinking, and did she know about your crush? I’m guessing you forgot to clue her in, or at least you forgot to emphasize the import.
Do you know what a wing woman is and how to create a wing woman event? Well, I’m glad you asked. I am seriously thinking of writing a book called “Wing Woman” once my other stuff is cleared, but for now I will distill my wisdom into two paragraphs.
Getting laid or finding a datable guy is a community affair. Gather a girls-only version of your party and talk about how you guys can help each other with your crushes. No fair for it to be only about you, you also have to problem solve for other people. Make plans, hold practices in bars or beer gardens or free outdoor concerts of wherever, and make sure there are at least three wingwoman per round, since you don’t want to strand your friends.
And most importantly, at all times maintain a rotation of crushes on a bunch of men, or else the ego crashing at low moments will overwhelm. The goal is to have a response more like, “oh well, his loss.”
Good luck, and keep me posted on your wingwoman work!
Please submit your well-specified, fun-loving, cleverly-abbreviated question to Aunt Pythia!