Hello, all. I am the somewhat famous Mathematician, John Thompson. My grandson persuaded me to do an AMA, so ask me anything, reddit! Edit: Here's the proof, with my son and grandson.


Comments: 832 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

amused_seal238 karma


Chumbaniya19 karma

I feel like the grandson has probably done a pretty bad job of explaining to the OP what the purpose of an AMA is. I get the feeling that he's aware that he needs to answer questions, but not why he's answering them.

And to be honest, there's no way that most Redditors even understand what questions about serious mathematics mean, let alone have the ability to understand the answers, so it's sort of a redundant AMA unless you're looking at it in the sense of a very generic AMA about being an academic (and surely we have enough academics who are already Redditors and know the format who can do that). As someone with an undergraduate degree in maths, I know most Redditors would struggle to come up with good questions that I could give answers to in a way they'd understand, and the OP here has an understanding waaaay beyond mine, to the extent that I'd struggle in the same way to ask serious questions of him.

francoismeyer237 karma

What is, in your opinion, the most elegant Mathematical proof ever devised?

justamathematician74 karma

How about the fact that there exist an infinite number of primes?

[deleted]190 karma


[deleted]2 karma

hard work

CC_EF_JTF143 karma

It is very hard work reading through this AMA.

mattgriggs46 karma

What made you so interested in reading AMA's? Were you naturally good at it?

OmarDClown34 karma


[deleted]2 karma

If you had to do an AMA, what questions would you ask yourself just because you want to answer them?

[deleted]98 karma

Advice for someone contemplating pursuing a career in mathematics/physics? I love crunching numbers! Any counsel would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

EDIT: Great Scott, you people really know what's up, cheers everyone!

[deleted]111 karma

I got my start as a professor, and also pursued my own projects. I worked hard, and that is what got me to where I am today.

[deleted]16 karma

Oops, I meant as in terms of college/university courses? What did you pursue and where? Sorry, mixed the words "courses" and "career", my bad. I'm still young, but I've always had a huge interest maths and everything that splinters off from it, and it's a toss up between mathematical physics or theoretical physics. What influenced you?

v1c1ous98 karma


nazbot232 karma

It's an exercise for the reader.

labienus31 karma

It is easy to show that this AMA is legit.

Chumbaniya10 karma

Trivial isomorphism between the OP of this post and John Thompson.

palerthanrice87 karma

I'm a Secondary Math Ed major. Any advice on how I can spark an interest in math with my students?

[deleted]162 karma

Make it relatable. Make them WANT to do the math.

mintrolling31 karma

Can you give us some examples of how you might go about that? I mean to say, what specific things would you do if you were a student who was fairly uninterested in math? How can somebody become motivated?

[deleted]32 karma

You can use math to calculate how much energy goku generates given the time it takes him to charge a blast to blow up a planet. first youd need to find out how much energy you would need to blow apart the planet and then its easy :-P

[deleted]6 karma

[deleted]2 karma

hard work

ethidium-bromide83 karma

What do you personally feel are the most important currently unsolved problems in mathematics? Which direction would you like to see future research head?

[deleted]138 karma

There's one branch of mathematics connected to interstellar space. I think this would be a very worthwhile project to pursue. Another interstellar mathematical problem would be the concept of So-Called "Dark Matter".

dittendatt33 karma

Any advice for a student thinking of taking a PhD in mathematical physics?

[deleted]234 karma

Work hard.

[deleted]2 karma

And what about the problem with "Pancakes"?

emacdona65 karma

Do you have an opinion on the question of whether mathematics is discovered or invented? Do you care?

[deleted]88 karma

I think it's pretty philosophical, and there isn't a real answer to that.

[deleted]61 karma

but plenty of imaginary ones amirite

Galactic77755 karma

Do you like playing chess? And were you always good at math?

[deleted]107 karma

I love ches, and no, but I got good through hard work.

WiseBinky7953 karma

So I'm having real difficulty finding a reviewer for my mathematics paper that I spent ten+ years on. The problem is that I discovered a set (more specifically, a ring) that is both Cauchy complete and countable, which shouldn't exist, but it does. I have even been able to provide an exception to Cantor's diagonal method using this ring, but I think that no one will read my paper because these things are not within the paradigm and thus not "likely to be true" --true or not. Do you have any suggestions for me as to how I can find someone to read a non-standard paper? I have the paper written in LaTeX, and is very concise, but it has still been passed up by ArXiv.org, ECCC.org and Terrance Tao (AMS journal of mathematics). There was no reason sited as to why they won't accept my paper for review, just that it wasn't read by anyone. I'm not sure what to do with my decade worth of work. I feel they just read the chapter headings and not the logic leading to the conclusions of those headings, since, it is not an easy read. Any suggestions on what I can do in this situation? How can I find someone to read the paper? I've asked to meet people at my local universities and none even respond to a meeting inquiry. I'm hoping to find someone who can either accept the paper, or show me where the fatal flaw is.

[deleted]32 karma

Maybe spice it up a bit.
Add in a twist ending, begin with some sex & violence, should guarantee more readers.

[deleted]7 karma

"The problem is that I discovered a set (more specifically, a ring) that is both Cauchy complete and countable"

You're shitting me?

CallingOutYourBS21 karma

Nah, he's just shitting himself. Read the rest of the thread, people have shown some of his mistakes, but he doesn't seem to be very receptive to having his errors pointed out.

Guess I can't really blame him too much. I wouldn't be too happy if I'd spent 10 years on something just to have it shown to be wrong in an hour by random internet people.

[deleted]3 karma

I looked at it pretty briefly and failed to see a real argument presented.

[deleted]48 karma

I call bullshit here. He completely ignored any real mathematical question and only replied to the obvious questions anybody (and I mean ANYBODY) could answer. Also, the way he answers doesn't make you think he is a mathematician nor an old person. He could probably not answer anything more complicated than a highschool calculus.

The obvious and most reasonable conclusion is that the kid on the picture is the OP, and for whatever reason he got a picture with the mathematician which he used for a fake AMA. At least if you check through the profile you can be sure this is the kid's account.

If I'm wrong, then prove it with a picture of you alone and a sign showing the date and a couple of words saying "I love you 333kyary".

[deleted]7 karma

hard work. next.

joetromboni46 karma

Are you able to do a lot of math in your head, or do you need a chalkboard/write it down?

[deleted]74 karma


Directors_Cut43 karma

When did you decide that mathematics was the profession for you? Were you a naturally gifted mathematician when you were younger?

And your grandson is awesome for introducing you to Reddit.

[deleted]67 karma

I took intrest in it at Yale. I got to where I was through hard work.

[deleted]12 karma


DuckingTape37 karma

Are you happy with your life?

[deleted]68 karma


[deleted]39 karma

It just struck me how weird it is that anonymous strangers are asking a fields medal winning mathematician questions about how happy he is with his life...

MeleeIslandTM30 karma

Why group theory?

[deleted]40 karma

That was something that intrigued me in college, and I stuck with it.

kaiwolf2621 karma

How do you get involved in math projects? Are there math groups, or do you have to have connections through universities?

[deleted]21 karma

It was just a personal intrest.

Distance_Runner17 karma

What's your favorite proof?

[deleted]13 karma

Hard work

CodyOdi14 karma

Does 2+2=5?

[deleted]36 karma


Conejo_Malvado8 karma

Not really an AMA if you don't answer anyone's questions.

[deleted]5 karma

hard work

bhujia6 karma

In your opinion who are the top 5 greatest mathematicians of all time?

[deleted]10 karma

  1. Myself
  2. Hard work
  3. Hard work
  4. Hard work
  5. Hard work

[deleted]6 karma


[deleted]4 karma

If you could give advice to everyone that says, "I'm just not good at math!" What would it be?

Hiversity3 karma

You worked on the classification of finite simple groups. What was this like? How was it seeing this incredible project through to its conclusion?

Are there particular moments in your life you remember when you had a particularly momentous breakthrough? What are you happiest or proudest memories in mathematics?

ameripen3 karma

What is it like to be a member of the Royal Society? Do you visit often?

[deleted]3 karma

How important do you think High School Grades are in our futures?

zaurefirem3 karma

Tea or coffee?

[deleted]9 karma

Hard work

[deleted]2 karma

What do you think is the most brilliant Mathematics Pattern?

[deleted]2 karma


Bigbrotherxp2 karma

I have a child due in 18 days. How can I introduce her to math and help her understand that math is a language that can tell us everything and not have her fear it? I had very weak math skills as a child and I hope to help her to not fear math.