How do I go about publishing a theorem?

I have a theorem I came up with and have a proof for it. I was wondering if anyone here knew how I would go about getting it published. Is there some giant list of math theorems somewhere, or would I have to send it to a specific math book publishing company? I’m guessing this might be a patent thing. If so, any info on going about getting something patented would be appreciated.

It’s been published already.

I realize that there are an incredible amount of theorems that have been published, but I’d still like to find out if someone had published this before me.

Let me begin by saying that I have never submitted an article for publication, so I have no first hand experience. My opinion would be to first search the literature for your theorem and anything related to it. A library should be able to help you with this (there are several hundred mathematics oriented journals). From what I understand, you should check out Mathematical Reviews, also. Next, if things still look promising, submit your paper to an appropriate journal. If it isn’t too long, I’d suggest American Mathematical Monthly, Mathematics Magazine, The College Mathematics Journal, Mathematical Gazette, or Mathematics Teacher. Each journal has its own ‘specifications’ for papers submitted, usually printed on the inside of the front or back cover. Best of luck, and let us know how things turn out. :slight_smile:

Pies ‘R’ Squared

Sorry for the negativity above. Just was in hope-dashing mood.

But I think Pies is on the right track. It might be tough to find good math journals at your standard library though. You’re better off trying a local college library. The key is to find one paper that is somewhat related, then you can work backwards from the citations given there.

Well, if you really want it published, ytou could put it in MPSIMS, but then the reader would have acliam to it. And I think it would be a copyright, not a patent. To get a patent you would have to come up with some pratical application of it.

So post the theorem already. And the proof. Let’s have at it.

Before you post it here, don’t forget to read the fine print at the bottom of this very page.

I had a conjecture I came up with several years ago, which I never did succeed in proving. It was in number theory, and in my case, a great resource was Sloane’s Encylopedia of Integer Sequences. This book told me that a sequence closely related to the one I was studying had a name; in fact it’s called the Conway-Guy sequence (both Conway & Guy are famous mathematicians). Sloane’s Encyclopedia is on the internet as well.

I later saw that Tom Bohman at MIT did prove what I was trying to prove.

It would be weird if the Chicago Reader won the Nobel prize in math!

I see no problems here. Sure, the reader can republish it, but they don’t get to pretend they came up with it.

OK, so there is no Nobel prize in math.

But, Holden – if your idea has any practical application, you should write it up as a computer program and patent that. I don’t think a strict mathematical theorem can be patented in and of itself, but I could be wrong.

Do you mean “doubly so!” because there is no math Nobel?

The fine print at the bottom says “Message board users retain the right to republish or repost their own work.”

All SDMB asks for is a nonexclusive right to re-use the posting. That is probably necessary for archive purposes, even. They would still make proper attributions, I’m sure. That is at least as good a deal as most journals.

You can patent mathematical algorithms, I think, if you have a way to exploit it financially. If it is just geometry or something, let’s have at it. At least, describe the general gist, or the area of math.

What exactly would be the point of patenting a mathematical theorem anyway? Just to be counter-productive? “Hey, everybody, 1 + 2 + 3 + … + n-1 + n = n(n+1)/2, but you can’t use that! You have to add it up by hand! NYAH!” The point of coming up with a new proof is to benefit the world at large and add to the repository of human knowledge. I understand wanting credit for your discovery, but the F-ing greed these days is making me sick. Patenting the human genome? There’s a minimum of something like 10,000 years of documented prior art on THAT one.

Patenting every little thing has gotten really out of hand. Let’s not encourage this crap.

Holden, not to be discouraging, but I would start with the assumption that someone has already postulated and proved your theorem. Can you tell us (broadly) what field of mathematics it relates to? Number theory, complex analysis, topology, etc? What is your mathematics background?

Assuming, for the moment, that your theorem is new, you would submit it to an academic journal (Pies listed several that sounded appropriate). It would be peer-reviewed by other mathematicians, who would probably check that it was both new work and correct. If accepted, that would be it. You would have evidence that you were the first to think of the theorem. If it was important enough, they would name it after you. That’s it. No money. No fame.

However, it probably isn’t new. I really don’t mean to be discouraging, but in academia there is usually a huge body of work that is published somewhere, but not widely known. You’ll have to do some research.

Good luck, whatever you end up doing.

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I’d like to second Giraffe’s good advice; don’t be discouraged if your theorem (or your proof) isn’t original. Proving classical and existing theorems is a learning experience; it’s a large part of the exercises in advanced math classes.

jmullaney, I sadly agree, we have become a world of trademarks. However, I laud Joe_Cool’s idealism. I believe in credit where credit is due, as well as research done for its own sake. (Naturally, this is easy for me to say, since I haven’t done any significant research yet.) IMHO, it’s a happy medium that is necessary. Elsewise, at one extreme, we have plagiarism; at the other extreme, we are reminded of the horrible consequences of the Newton/Leibniz calculus controversy.

If one does decide that money or fame will fuel their research, I suggest checking on the Clay Mathematics Institute’s ‘millenium problems’. The solution of any of these unsolved problems will be rewarded with a million dollars (yes, they are serious, and yes, the problems are hard).

Again Holden, good luck.

From what I’ve seen, all that’s necessary is to get it published. If people find it original and usefull, it will eventually be referred to as ‘the Holden theorem’ or something and of course, anybody that can understand it can use it for their own purposes.

I’d just like to add that, even if your theorem has already been discovered and proven, you may still be published by a respected journal if you have come up with a new, novel, or much simpler proof of an important (or merely well known) result. Granted, that’ll get you even less than having discovered it, but you might get your proof used in a college level textbook or something.

re jmullaney : I’m not gonna go too far into GD territory here with a rant about the patent laws being inadequate to deal equitably with software (or other specific fields), but it is correct, at lest in the US, that a machine-code representation of an algorithm is patentable even when the algorithm itself is not. So long as this oversight is in the patent law, you might as well use it :).

It may not be able to be patented, but at least it can be copyrighted and protected until future use.