Opinion 27: With Opinions like Steven Krantz's It is Better To Be Unopinionated

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Sept. 23, 1998

My friends told me that I am wasting too much time and energy getting mad at Steven Krantz, he is a person not worthy of talking-back to. When the Notices of the AMS changed its editorial board, I was relieved. Krantz became a "contributing editor", and Knapp, who a priori looked promising, the new editor-in-chief.

Alas, my relief did not last long. Knapp turned out to be even Rossier than the previous editor-in-chief. An empirical proof that the Notices must perform a Knappsack (unfortunately, it seems to be NP-hard) is that Kanpp had already turned down three of my masterpieces:

But getting back to my old friend Krantz, he got me mad twice recently. First, his nasty, and extremely unfair, review of Omar Hijab's masterpiece textbook in a recent Monthly issue, for which my colleague Marvin Knopp (no relation to Knapp) wrote a powerful rebuttal . As usual with nasty reviews, Krantz's review reveals much more about the reviewer than about the reviewed book. Between the lines you can sense that Krantz considers himself in the equivalence class of Laurent Schwartz, and the two reviewed authors as inferior. (By the way: quite a few great American mathematicians indulge in textbook writing: Lipman Bers, Peter Lax, and Don J. Newman, to name a few.)

Since Marvin wrote such a nice rebuttal, I did not find a need to respond. But, [growl] when I opened the latest Oct. 1998 Notices, what do I see in the `In my Opinion' column? A call by Krantz for opinions! For once I agree with him! So Steve, if you want opinions so badly, come and hear my meta-opinion on your so-called opinions. They are (with the exception of the meta-opinion that mathematicians should be more opinionated), elitist, snooty, computer-phobic trite trash, rehashing old bigotry of narrow-minded `pure' mathematicians, out of touch with other sciences.

First a factual correction. You said that the Bible Codes are easy to attack since they were not done by mathematicians. Well, Eliyahu [Ilya] Rips, who started this business, is a top-notch group theorist. Among the mathematicians who endorsed it (until a year ago, when he started having doubts) was Hillel Furstenberg, one of the greatest mathematicians of our time.

Going to the `controversial' applications of catastrophe theory, this is not very original. Many mathematicians criticized them, even in print. While these criticisms were obviously correct from a narrow point of view, the suggested applications to prison riots etc. are still very interesting metaphors.

Fractals and Chaos are (fashionable or not) one of the major achievements of this century, to SCIENCE as whole, and also to mathematics. You have repeated the bigoted and narrow-minded opinions of many `pure' mathematicians (most of whom, however, have the good sense to keep them to locker-room/coffee-room gossip) that view fractals and chaos as trivial. What's so great about solving specific problems? The insight gained by fractals and chaos far surpass the significance the proofs of FLT and Kepler's conjecture combined.

May I suggest that you will take a break from your opinions? If you feel a need to blab, post them on your website, like I do (except that MY opinions are not quite as dumb as yours), but spare the readers of the Notices.

Doron Zeilberger's Opinion's Table of Content

Doron Zeilberger's Homepage