Daniel Lemire's blog

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Leaves in the web of knowledge

Sometimes people conclude that I am very humble or just not very smart when I state that most of my work is not very important. In truth, a couple of things I did as a researcher are worth considering, and I hope to produce a few more, but these are small gems in a vast underground of dirt.

It appears that I am not alone. Here is Zeilberger on why errors in 99.9% of mathematical papers are no big deal:

Most mathematical papers are leaves in the web of knowledge, that no one reads, or will ever use to prove something else. The results that are used again and again are mostly lemmas, that while a priori non-trivial, once known, their proof is transparent. (Zeilberger’s Opinion 91)

I agree that getting a formula wrong is no big deal. As long as we have a diverse set of researchers working on different problems, important errors are not going to survive long. Fortunately.

Cheating and biases is what we need to worry about.