According to Steven Colbert on tonight’s Colbert Report, equations are the devil’s sentences. For the past couple of days, this site has been under relentless spam attack (the spam has been showing up in older posts, so no one sees them but me). Clearly, these two events are related.

Personally, it would have thought it was

inequalitiesthat were the handiwork of Beelzebub, rather than equations! Wasting years of our life trying to prove a better lower bound for the complexity of some procedure should be just what he wants us to do!the spam has been showing up in older posts, so no one sees them but meAlmost true; I see them as well since I subscribe to the Comments RSS feed (link at bottom of page).Are you using the word

Clearlyin the mathematical sense ofI haven’t a clue how to prove it but I am willing to bet it’s right? It’s just that many blogs (not just WordPress) suffer from spam hence the advice atCombating Comment Spam.This has been known for centuries. As Saint Augustine wrote: “… beware the mathematician and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell.”

Spam should be easy to deal with on ars mathematica. Every time someone tries to make an account you force them to solve a mathematical problem. Say something at advanced high school level like a small matrix multiplication or an elementary combinatorics problem. Most of the spammers will find these devil’s sentences not to be worth their while to deal with.

Sigfpe — but what’s to stop a spammer deploying an automated math problem solver at the problem? I think the site would have to set harder and harder problems!

I spend a lot of my time explaining to my students that they can all solve equations (linear and quadratic- we’re talking first-year Algebra, ok?) if I tell them what to do, step by step. The difference comes when they can solve problems on their own. This, it appears for many, is as if I say, “I can share my magic with you. The difference is when you use your own magic.” I have narrowed-down solving a simple linear equation to five steps in an always-seems-to-work flow chart. Some of my students act as if I’m telling them to pass their hands over their papers and chant secret words.

Sadly, many seem to believe they weren’t granted the magic, never will have the magic and those who have the magic are somehow strange.