Twitter, but for Math, with Toots

Hooray, it’s yet another social network for you to join! I’m skeptical about new social media, but I’ve been seeing enough posts about that I finally caved and got an account. Mathstodon is the math(s) “instance” of mastodon, a new open-source, decentralized microblogging social network. It’s a lot like the Twitter with a few differences for the user: no ads, messages can be 500 rather than 140 characters, and instead of tweets they’re called toots. Har!

Mathstodon, the new social network where you can toot a proof.
Credit: Christian Lawson-Perfect

The expanded character limit on mastodon inspired Christian Lawson-Perfect (@christianp) and Colin Wright (@ColinTheMathmo) to set up mathstodon. The sadly dormant @proofinatweet Twitter account notwithstanding, it’s pretty hard to fit mathematical ideas in 140 characters. The fact that mastodon is open-source also made it possible to add LaTeX rendering to mathstodon, and there was much rejoicing. (Though also a little bit of consternation; it doesn’t always render quickly or completely for me. It could be my browser.)

In a post for the Aperiodical introducing mathstodon, Lawson-Perfect challenges us to luxuriate in those 500 characters and write some proofs in a toot. A search for the hashtag #proofinatoot reveals some fun ones, but I’d love to read more. Mathstodon also introduced me to Lawson-Perfect’s blog Interesting Esoterica, a collection of fun or strange papers he has collected. Topics range from developing a mathematical model for bobbin lace to non-intersecting circles in the plane.

Brent Yorgey, a mathematician at Hendrix College who writes the blog The Math Less Traveled, has written a couple posts about using mathstodon. One is his proof in a toot, and one is about a fun puzzle: What’s the 99th digit to the right of the decimal point in the decimal expansion of (1 + √2)500?

So far I’ve only highlighted the work of men in this post. When I scrolled through mathstodon users, I only found about four usernames that appear to belong to women. (I did not dig into it extensively, so take that number with a grain of salt.) Without diving into the gender politics of mathematics social media sites, I’d like to blandly and generically encourage mathstodon users to make it a site that is welcoming and respectful to everyone. I find Twitter, or at least the mathy corner of Twitter I inhabit, to be a good place to talk about math without being harassed or feeling like I constantly have to prove my credentials. I hope that transfers to mathstodon.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, there is no way to lurk on mathstodon without setting up an account, but if you’re ready to take the plunge, have at it. As usual on social media, I’m @evelynjlamb. Feel free to send me a toot!

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