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Why Mathematicians Should Stop Naming Things After Each Other

Any student of modern math must know what it feels like to drown in a well of telescoping terminology.

For a high-profile example, let’s take the Calabi-Yau manifold, made famous by string theory.

A Calabi-Yau manifold is a compact, complex Kähler manifold with a trivial first Chern class.

Before you could even guess what that definition might mean, you would need to find another source to define a Kähler manifold:

A Kähler manifold is a Hermitian manifold for which the Hermitian form is closed.

After which you would need a third source to define a Hermitian manifold:

A Hermitian manifold is the complex analogue of the Riemannian manifold …

And you’re down the rabbit hole. When everything is named for its discoverer, it can be impossible even to track the outline of a debate without months of rote memorization. The discoverer’s name doesn’t tell you anything about what the landscape is like, any more than the “Ackerman” in Ackerman’s Island

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