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The 20 Questions Seminar

Tuesdays, 1:00-2:00 in 740 Evans

UPDATE: This Wiki is sleeping. With the advent of MathOverflow.net, mathematicians are now encouraged to obtain an account there for the purpose of posting and answering questions. Please mark your question with the "20-questions" tag at the end if you would like the question posed at the 20 Questions Seminar. The reason for the move is that MO.net is far better structured to handle questions and answers than a wiki.

The 20 Questions Seminar at the UC Berkeley math department is for mathematicians everywhere who want (what are hopefully) simple and stimulating math questions to think about.



About the seminar

Once in a while, we'll all come upon a question that screams "this is easy to someone else, but whom?" On the other hand, we like to hear questions that are easy for us but hard for others, so we can be useful. So why not trade, and trade fast? Rule #1 at the seminar is:

1. Avoid asking questions that require a lot of background, like from your own research. Stick to questions you think others are at least as prepared for as you are.

When people follow it, this rule results in questions that are fun and accessible, and you often end up with answers, too. But since usually the "poser" is the only one really interested in the answer -- at least at first -- we have adopted the following:

2. Wait until the end of the seminar to discuss solutions, unless of course you can say the answer very quickly :)

This keeps the seminar from degenerating to a dialogue about one question, which I think is the natural tendency. And just so everyone feels welcome, we have:

3. You do not have to ask or answer a question! Just hearing what lots of people are thinking in a short time is reason enough to attend.

I think these three ideas, someone recording the questions, and a critical mass of curious mathematicians are all that's needed for a successful "Questions Seminar", though time will be the only test.

Questions/answers from inside the seminar

2009 September 10th

090910q - Questions

090910qa - Questions with answers

2009 September 17th

090917q - Questions

090917qa - Questions with answers

2009 September 29th

090929q - Questions

090929qa - Questions with answers

2009 October 6th

091006q - Questions

091006qa - Questions with answers

2009 October 13th (UPCOMING)

091013q - Questions

091013qa - Questions with answers

Questions/answers from outside the seminar

Topology

Algebra

Analysis

Combinatorics

Guidelines for participation

Here are some evolving guidelines for participation in the seminar. If we follow these to an extent, the seminar should run fairly autonomously.

1. Avoid asking questions that require a lot of background, like from your own research. Stick to questions you think others are at least as prepared for as you are.

2. Wait till the end of the seminar to discuss solutions, unless of course you can say the answer very quickly :)

3. You do not have to ask or answer a question! Just hearing what lots of people are thinking in a short time is reason enough to attend.

4. Start questions by writing up your name, and end by saying "thank-you" or something.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for clarifications! Questions should be stated as clearly as possible.

6. Lets try to wrap things up around 1:40 so we have time to discuss answers at the end (and before our brains fill up!).

7. Afterwards, visit the 20 Questions wiki to view or post answers, and SPREAD THE WORD: mathematicians everywhere can use it!

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