Proposal: History of Science And Mathematics

I proposed a question on possible "alien/alternate-history" mathematics that got thoroughly downvoted here.

I would like to make a case that it does in fact belong here in spirit (even thought it might not be worth asking here anymore, since it has already been answered), and I would like to make that case by pointing everyone to the [accepted answer to the equivalent question on M.SE] (https://math.stackexchange.com/a/688115/115703), which (surprise, surprise) was answered by a History of Mathematics student.

So, I would really like to figure out why this question was deemed inappropriate here in the first place. If it was downvoted simply because it contained the word "alien", how many other questions have been upvoted/downvoted here not because of whether they belong, but because they 'contain the right words'? How can we avoid this issue in the future?

  • 1
    I did not downvote your question, but I suppose it was downvoted because it asks about an alternate history (fiction) and not an actual history (fact).
    – JRN
    Feb 26, 2014 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


I can only speculate about the downvotes, of course:

First of all, if I recall correctly, your question was originally worded as your Math.SE question: “What fields (and operators acting on those fields) might form the basis of alien mathematics?”. With this formulation, one could only speculate what this has to do with the topic of this proposal. Also, it was unclear to me how alien “alien” was supposed to be, e.g., were the aliens supposed to live on some two-dimensional universe, some weird manifold or are they just supposed to have six fingers on each hand?

The in-between wording (“What fields might form the basis mathematics in an alternate or alien history?”) is better in some aspect, but worse in others. Most of all, it is not very clear what you are aiming at, e.g., does field refer to the algebraic structure or a sub-discipline of mathematics? (This is better in the current wording.)

Anyway, the current wording could be reformulated (but you might rather ask a new question) to be more obviously fitting to the topic, e.g., in the lines of: “Is it only for historical reasons that our mathematics based on the algebraic structures it is based on?”

So, I do not think your question was not downvoted because it contained the wrong word, but because it was not very clear how it was intended and how it relates to the topic of this proposal.

By the way: If your question is based on a question on an existing Stack Exchange (which is no problem), link this question in a comment to your question. This way, viewers could know how your question was intended from the very beginning.

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