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.