Joel David Hamkins’ profile over MathOverflow reads: “My main research interest lies in mathematical logic, particularly set theory, focusing on the mathematics and philosophy of the infinite. A principal concern has been the interaction of forcing and large cardinals, two central concepts in set theory. I have worked in group theory and its interaction with set theory in the automorphism tower problem, and in computability theory, particularly the infinitary theory of infinite time Turing machines. Recently, I am preoccupied with the set-theoretic multiverse, engaging with the emerging field known as the philosophy of set theory.”
Joel is a wonderful MO contributor, one of those distinguished mathematicians whose arrays of MO answers in their areas of interest draw coherent deep pictures for these areas that you probably cannot find anywhere else. And Joel is also a very highly decorated and prolific MO contributor, whose 999th answer appeared today!!
Here is a very short selection of Joel’s answers. To (MO founder) Anton Geraschenko’s question What are some reasonable-sounding statements that are independent of ZFC? Joel answered; “If a set X is smaller in cardinality than another set Y, then X has fewer subsets than Y.” Joel gave a very thorough answer to my question on Solutions to the Continuum Hypothesis; His 999th answer is on the question Can an ultraproduct be infinite countable? (the answer is yes! but this is a large cardinal assumption.) Update: Joel’s 1000th answer on a question about logic in mathematics and philosophy was just posted.
Joel also wrote a short assay, the use and value of MathOverflow over his blog. Here it is:
The principal draw of mathoverflow for me is the unending supply of extremely interesting mathematics, an eternal fountain of fascinating questions and answers. The mathematics here is simply compelling.
I feel that mathoverflow has enlarged me as a mathematician. I have learned a huge amount here in the past few years, particularly concerning how my subject relates to other parts of mathematics. I’ve read some really great answers that opened up new perspectives for me. But just as importantly, I’ve learned a lot when coming up with my own answers. It often happens that someone asks a question in another part of mathematics that I can see at bottom has to do with how something I know about relates to their area, and so in order to answer, I must learn enough about this other subject in order to see the connection through. How fulfilling it is when a question that is originally opaque to me, because I hadn’t known enough about this other topic, becomes clear enough for me to have an answer. Meanwhile, mathoverflow has also helped me to solidify my knowledge of my own research area, often through the exercise of writing up a clear summary account of a familiar mathematical issue or by thinking about issues arising in a question concerning confusing or difficult aspects of a familiar tool or method.
Mathoverflow has also taught me a lot about good mathematical exposition, both by the example of other’s high quality writing and by the immediate feedback we all get on our posts. This feedback reveals what kind of mathematical explanation is valued by the general mathematical community, in a direct way that one does not usually get so well when writing a paper or giving a conference talk. This kind of knowledge has helped me to improve my mathematical writing in general.
So, thanks very much mathoverflow! I am grateful.
Thanks very much, Joel, for your wonderful mathoverflow answers and questions!