What is this?

It’s a question-and-answer website.  Questions received by email or in person are sometimes turned into posts.

Do you answer every question?

Damn near it.  But the answer might be “I don’t know” or “you might need a chemist/biologist/medium/kung fu master for this one” or an “informed” guess.

Do all the questions/answers get posted?

Not even close.

What kind of question can I ask?

The best questions are the kind that “have been bothering you for years”.  Bizarre philosophical questions are more than good.  Cut-and-paste homework questions are more than bad.

How do I cite the site?

The MLA standard for citations can be found here.  I heartily apologize on behalf of the MLA, for all of the italicized, quotation marked, and semicoloned ruin and sadness they’ve brought to our beleaguered liberal arts population.

Who are you?

“A Mathematician” and “A Physicist” were the names we chose so that the folk who came to the stand at Burning Man would know who to talk to first.  Those carried over into web-based pseudonyms pretty naturally.  Very occasionally, when a question deserves to be answered but is better answered by someone else, a guest author will be brought in.

Why the anonymity?

Mostly it’s that being anonymous means (hopefully) being judged directly by the content of the posts.  Also, it doesn’t help anyone to be either intimidated by our massive over-qualification or made incredulous by our shocking under-qualification.

How do I know the answers are right?

Don’t trust us.  If you can check the math, check it.  If the facts don’t line up or new data becomes available, let us know.  If it’s reasonable to do so (and helps more than hurts) we’ll try to justify or prove things in the post.  Sometimes mistakes happen, but if we know about them they’ll be fixed.  It’s also fine to point out spelling and grammar mistake.

Can I advertise on askamathematician?


Can I send you money?

That’s very kind, but nope.

Do you sell t-shirts or anything?


What’s the point?

Seems like a decent thing to do.

What’s the most common question you get asked?

“What’s the most common question you get asked?”

Do you have any advice on becoming a mathematician or physicist?

If you do something a lot, you’ll get good at it, and it’s a lot easier to do something a lot if you love it.  Take or sit in on classes you don’t need, ask questions continuously, and harass teachers you don’t know with questions they don’t expect.  Keep in mind that physics is the study of physical reality, so go outside and look at stuff.  Seriously.  It’s a lot easier to understand how fancy equations relate to physical things if you’ve personally seen lots of examples of physical things.  If you see a little kid blinking at ceiling fans,  crossing their eyes at a chain-link fence, or jumping on the bus/train/elevator, then you’re looking at a tiny physicist.

But mostly: math.  It cannot be overemphasized how important math is.  If you’re bad at math, then doing more math is the only way to get better.  If you can’t get past something (looking at you, fractions), then admit it to your teachers (or anyone else who can help), ask lots of questions, and then: math, math, math.  Math.

How do I write fancy equations in the comments?

If you know LaTex, then start what you write with “$latex” and end it with “$”.  Everything in between will be in the “LaTex math environment” and will be super pretty.

12 Responses to Faq

  1. Dimitry says:

    Dear Mathematician and Physicist,

    Just wanted to say that this site is [email protected] I am really enjoying the posts and feedback and style and content. I personally enjoy math and science as an amateur (majored in biochemistry in college but did not pursue for work) and while there are very good resources nowadays to view, read, listen to, they always lack something. Anyway, the crispness and manner with which you both digest difficult subjects is special. I hope you continue to do so. I will turn this site over to my 4yr old on a regular basis as she grows up – thanks,


  2. Fabio says:

    Hi there.

    Please can you confirm the email address to which to send a question? The one listed on the right hand column of the website appears to contain spaces which I`m assuming is incorrect.

    I want to ask you to please check the maths involved in a probability estimate which you may find interesting and\or usseful.

    Thank you.

    Thank you.

  3. anukrit says:

    how can i ask questions??????????

  4. Michael says:

    How do I ask a question?

  5. Ruvian says:

    There’s the email of them in the top of site
    To help you, it’s:
    [email protected]

  6. daani says:

    through the nuclear reactions! (neutron, nutrino etc) an element could be converted into another! like addition of a neutron like things.. if this is true(which m sure it is!) than we CAN possibly make gold from other elements through nuclear conversions.. speaking of what.. isn’t ‘alchemy’ possible? (ancient alchemy though!)

  7. Tom Major says:

    how old is this website?

  8. Gary Kayser says:

    a question about relative risk(RR) as used in health science.

    If a RR is given of RR 1.25 and since 1 is 80% of 1.25; does that imply that factors other than the 25% are the cause of something.

    For instance:
    SHS is said to cause a 25% increase in the risk for heart disease deaths….RR 1.25

    Since there are multiple factors that cause heart disease, it can not be said that 25% of the deaths were 100% caused by SHS exposure.

  9. Devin Bayer says:

    How can I leave a reply for old topics?

    I would like to clarify one reply from an uniformed user on “Q: How does instantaneous communication violate causality?”, but there does not seem to be any mechanism for reply?

  10. Nicholas Roach says:

    I have a question that has been bothering me for years. I have a TI-89 Titanium calculator and when I ask this very simple question, (in exact mode) I get the correct answer.

    ∫ x dx = ∞ Average rate of change from 0 to infinity is infinity, in exact mode.

    This is where it gets really weird….when the calculator is put in approximate mode this is always the answer I get 8.295218731737 E 27 with the disclaimer of “questionable accuracy” The calculator has a precision of fourteen digits. I cannot understand where the logic behind it went wrong. The TI-nspire CAS gives the same answer also? I got a third opinion from this discontinued Math software called Derive 6, and when set a fourteen digits of precision this is the different (wrong) answer (1.9918153995090 E 26) If I set the input precision at one digit, and output precision at fourteen digits, I get this answer ( 4008.1 )…..what? These are not random answers and depending on the settings they are consistently wrong and always the same. What is going on????? Help!

  11. Griffith says:

    i know 2^P-1=P has been proved wrong but what about 2^x-1=p where x is prime and is a fibonacci number.

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