The currency of mathematics: ideas vs proofs

[Posted on february 12, 2017.]

Quanta magazine has come up with yet another stellar wide-audience article, this time by Kevin Hartnett on the work of several authors in symplectic geometry.

It contains this great quote by Mohammed Abouzaid:

There are two conceptions of mathematics,” Abouzaid said. “There’s mathematics as: The currency of mathematics is ideas. And there’s mathematics as: The currency of mathematics is proofs. It’s hard for me to say on which side people stand. My personal attitude is: The most important thing in mathematics is ideas, and the proofs are there to make sure the ideas don’t go astray.

It’s probably the most reasonable take on that topic.

Now what are other areas of mathematics that have been impacted by these two conceptions in recent years? Of course, the work of Perelman and the controversy with the Cao-Zhu paper quickly comes to mind, but this was then modified by Cao-Zhu within a few months so that the ideas-conception won in that instance.

Are there others, either form the distant past or the recent few years? Feel free to mention any, that’s be insteresting to study.

The mooring line, by Bernard Spragg NZ on flickr

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