FOM: Basta

Vaughan Pratt pratt at cs.Stanford.EDU
Wed Mar 18 13:37:27 EST 1998

Dear Sol,

I don't blame you, the organizers are setting an example for their
constituency that many besides you seem to be uncomfortable with.
(I count Harvey as an accessory to Steve's organizing, which on the
administrative side btw is excellent.)

The categories mailing list isn't remotely like this (except for being
equally well administered), being firmly conducted by Bob Rosebrugh
and with the overall proceedings in my view several notches higher with
regard to average technical depth of contribution.  But the resulting
atmosphere is more like a quaker meeting than a sophomore bull session,
with long periods of contemplative silence, which makes it a lot less
stimulating than FOM (depending on one's need for stimulation).

I'll be dropping out of FOM myself soon, but only because it's too
much fun and so takes up too much of my time (I don't need *that*
much stimulation).  But the Boolean ring/algebra debate has been very
instructive for me, especially the extended offline correspondence I've
been having with Steve this past week, as it has pointed up for me a
side effect of separating "signature" from "theory."

The problem with this separation, which I wish I'd seen at the
Universal Algebra and Category Theory meeting at MSRI in 1992 so I
could have brought it up there, is that it makes the notion of variety
basis-dependent, creating an artificial need for a notion of equivalence
of varieties.  No such notion exists in the basis-independent view
of varieties, where signature is treated as inseparable from theory.
If my correspondence with Steve ever converges I'll try to summarize
(my obviously biased view of) whatever we converge on.

But foundations of math is only a recent interest of mine, barely more
than a hobby, whereas you have made it a career, and very successfully so.
Your departure therefore represents a substantial loss for FOM, which
despite its unruly atmosphere manages to stay focused on f.o.m., a
subject near and dear to the hearts of its subscribers not least your own.


More information about the FOM mailing list