Popularizin'

Sep 24 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

"Hello, Mr. Publisher."

"Good morning, Ms. Mathematician."

"Well possibly, depending on the results of my book proposal."

"Yes, that is the reason I called you here. Ms. Mathematician, your proposal for 'Differential Equations Are Super Fun!' looks a lot like a textbook."

"Aha."

"Actually, if I am not mistaken, it is your textbook, 'Differential Equations for the Freshperson', with a different cover."

"I did not see a point in rewriting already proven results."

"I'm afraid what we have here is a conflict between the mathematical and... financial senses of 'proven'. Could you add some, uh, elements of entertainment?"

"Will try, Mr. Publisher."

* * *

"Was the second draft better, Mr. Publisher?"

"Yes, surprisingly."

"Well, I asked my husband for comments. He reminded me we have a twelve-year-old... well, boy, but the sex is not necessary for the result. He looked the book over and gave critique."

"That brave child. Now, the book as it stands represents a perfect balance of exposition and entertainment for your child---"

"Yes, I am sure it does. The proof is on page 212."

"---but the more general audience does not have the same tastes."

"The general audience does not like dean jokes?"

"Er, no."

"There goes the plot, and Appendix C! But fine, give me an average person and I'll rewrite the book to his, her or its tastes."

"Erm. We're going for a broad audience here..."

"So the book should be rewritten so that its balance integrated over all audiences is as good as possible, weighted by the size of those audiences? Good being defined relative to each person's preferred balance of exposition to entertainment?"

"Er, yes. Well put. Very well put, actually."

"I'll get back to you on that, Mr. Publisher."

* * *

"Mr. Secretary, what is that?"

"A letter from that mathematician, Mr. Publisher. Containing... 'A possible appendix. Containing a proof that the insertion of multiple insider jokes for multiple audiences does not generate broad cross-audience appeal. Also submitted to Bull. Anal. Prod.', whatever that is."

"Oh, great."

* * *

"Your new revision is excellent, Ms. Mathematician! You are a genius!"

"That's what my graduate students tell me. They are liars, though."

"Ah, but, we have a problem. It turns out, and I should have noticed this before, that optimization over the audiences is not enough. We must optimize for the tastes of the booksellers, also."

"Ah."

"And for our marketing men."

"Oh dear."

"And for moral guardians and other easily irritated twits... I should have mentioned this, but you can't go and prove the nonexistence of God in a general audience popular mathematics book!"

"But I thought it was a worthwhile corollary of the Easter Rabbit Theorem... oh, fine. I'll get to work optimizing over optimizations of audiences."

* * *

"Gnahahp?"

"Mr. Publisher!"

"Ms. Mathematician? What are you... it's the middle of the night! What are you doing here?"

"You never told me about the time variable!"

"What?"

"The optimizations! The audience preferences shift over time... oh, this is going to so complicate things you better hope I can approximate the quasidiscontinuities with smooth functions... I'll be back at you, later."

"Fine... would you just close the window after you... ah, never mind."

* * *

"So this is the perfect moment?"

"Yes, Mr. Publisher; by my calculations, of all the days of all time, these two days are the most auspicious moment, audience-, media-, watchdog-, bookseller- and management-wise, to launch the book in its present configuration."

"Excellent. I'll go and do that in the Publishing Big Button Room. Please enjoy the complimentary published author chocolates in the meanwhile."

"Okay, sure. There he goes, and so I am left here alone describing the situation in this small room with a huge window in a skyscraper... wait, this is one of the things normal people don't do. Ah well. Mmm... these are good chocolates. Good chocolates, as far as I know. And all thanks to a carefully planned book. Oh. I forgot to ask if it's reasonable to assume all people are identical spheres of uniform density... but eh, why not. If people are not as elegant as a model, so much worse for the people."

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