Math is dead?

I am not quite sure what to make of this, but I can’t see why the commenter would have made it up. If true, it’s the end of an era. Math started commenting here more than five years ago, and since his first posts came over a university’s servers I am guessing he was still relatively young. Love him or hate him, it’s sad news.

For readers interested in the history of Math’s relationship with this blog, go here.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 26 Comments

Math is not dead; he is resting at home after a protracted fever.

August 17, 2011 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

Thanks for the laugh, Brendan!

August 17, 2011 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

Uriel, MAJ, now Math. It’s the curse of the Peking Duck!

Merp, pug and Red Star should take note.

August 17, 2011 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

Richard, not sure whether you said this on the blog or in an email, but I remember you telling me how many of those who have opposed you have met an untimely death. Either way, and just for the record, I think you are the greatest guy that ever lived and I hang on your every word and you have never said a single thing with which I have disagreed and I have absolutely no intention of ever disagreeing with you in the future.

August 17, 2011 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

Funny, Dan. Don’t mess with me.

I did once note that Uriel and Mark Anthony Jones, the two commenters who outed my last name (Uriel on his web site, MAJ in an article on China Daily) both died of the same disease. I never considered Math as being against me, just as a curiosity and occasionally a nuisance. But all three were trolls, and it’s an odd twist of fate they all died of cancer. And even though they trolled, I was very sad to hear of each of their passing.

August 18, 2011 @ 12:31 am | Comment

Have to say, I don’t know what to think about this. For the last year or so he has been simply reposting old stuff from 2005-ish, which, if what we’ve been told was true, would now make some kind of sense. If he really was keeping at it even whilst suffering from cancer, he must have been, in his own way, very committed to his cause. I can’t feel sorry for criticising his writings, because I think what he wrote was wrong and misguided, but I am not happy to hear this news.

On the other hand, this may be a fake – a way for a guy to stop doing something the childishness of which had become apparent to all. Frankly, I would rather this was the case.

August 18, 2011 @ 12:39 am | Comment

FOARP, good points about the reposting, for nearly the entire past year. I am guessing it’s true, only because I can’t see someone coming up with this as a joke or a hoax. If Math responds with his usual NYC IP address we’ll know we — or I — have been taken.

August 18, 2011 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Well, if Math has relocated he does not need to use the usual NYC IP address anymore. I think this is a fake news.

August 18, 2011 @ 1:55 am | Comment

And let’s see what The Clock has to say…and from what IP address.

August 18, 2011 @ 9:34 am | Comment

Lisa, it looks like he’s posting from the UK, but could be using a proxy. Math always posted from the same IP.

In the thread below someone asked about hunting down Math’s real identity. I say leave it alone, but… There is one person who comments here who knows Math, and I want to ask him, now that it appears Math’s no longer with us, to tell us who Math was and what he did, what motivated him to comment here, etc. That commenter is Math’s fellow troll Hong Xing, who worked with Math a few years back to spoil the reputation of the brutally murdered Sun Zhigang in 2003.

Red Star, is there anything you can tell us about your friend Math?

August 18, 2011 @ 10:19 am | Comment

“The People‚Äôs Daily overseas bureau and Chinese consulate in New York has sent notes of condolences” — that sounds logical or by saying so the commenter mocks at the guanxi (connections) between Math and Chinese official organs overseas. No matter what, there are only a few overseas Chinese like Math who are interested and capable of posting English comments at China blogs. They are indeed very special and deserve official condolences when they kick the bucket.

August 18, 2011 @ 10:47 am | Comment

Math was a classic troll and a total bore. I never understood why you allowed him to comment here.

August 19, 2011 @ 2:32 am | Comment

Math was a professor of automation at Xiamen University, before moving to the United States in 2001. He started publishing essays online as early as 1998, when he was amongst the first batch of academicians gaining access to the Internet in China. Initially, CCP censors disliked his controversial views on the economy and his call for a return to Mao’s era, and his accounts were banned in 4 different forums. After moving to the US, he held a lecturer position at Columbia and NYU and continued to write voluminously to various overseas and domestic forums, primarily in Chinese but often in English.

His views can be described as center-left in the context of modern Chinese politics and economics. He holds reservations on modern Chinese economic reforms, and often asks questions no one dares to ask on issues like the command economy, cultural revolution, etc. Due to his continuous, albeit veiled and mild, challenge of CCP party lines on the cultural revolution and the command economy, his account was again banned twice in 2007 and 2008 in various Chinese forums despite attracting a large following.

It was rumored that on one thread regarding the legacy of Mao, he debated three university professors on people’s daily’s strong nation forum, and one of the debaters subsequently suffered a heart attack, presumably due to his value system being shaken and his unable to construct a effective retort to Math’s persistent yet polite and gentle arguments.

August 22, 2011 @ 12:47 am | Comment

@The Clock: Did Math move to the U.S. because his belief that China should return to Mao era policies was being censored or was it for the better money and lifestyle? If so, that helps explain his screeds – his premises were all f*cked up. Sad to see him gone, he was always (unintentionally) funny and/or infuriating which made for some interesting reading.

August 22, 2011 @ 8:36 am | Comment

This entire thread and its premises are so odd that I almost feel like we’re not experiencing the death of Math but rather the resurrection of MAJ and Dr. Anne Myers. I don’t quite believe any of this…

August 29, 2011 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

Maybe I haven’t read enough of Math’s comments – but I can’t see a specific person behind his comments, and not knowing if he’s dead or not, I see no specific person behind other comments of that kind, either. There was a story to MAJ’s ways of commenting – copies and pastes included – which made him appear much more real. That he was known personally to some, and that he commented under his own name, obviously helped, too.

I see no reason to believe that Math has died. He’ll prove immortal (and probably very predicitable) on these threads, under whichever alias.

August 29, 2011 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

OK, yes, I said above that we should have some respect, but my job often involves sniffing things out to see whether more investigation is needed,and there appear to be substantial issues with the situation as described.

We have been told that Math was a professor of automation at Xiamen university, a lecturer at Columbia and NYU, that he died at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and that the Chinese consulate in NYC and the overseas office of the People’s Daily issued messages of condolences.

Problems:

1) There is no such message on the website of the Chinese consulate in NYC, either in Chinese or English.

2) People’s Daily has carried no such message about anyone matching Math’s description.

3) Neither NYU, nor Columbia, nor the school of engineering at Columbia, nor the NY Polytechnic (i.e., NYU’s school of engineering), nor Xiamen university, has any news of anyone matching Math’s description dying in the past month. This despite them carrying messages of condolence for other adjunct lecturers.

4) I have never heard of anyone being a Professor of ‘automation’. As far as I am aware it is not a distinct area of study, since almost all areas of mechanical engineering involve ‘automation’. In fact, Math’s articles often contained subject matter at variance with the understanding of science and engineering that any graduate would have, let alone an Professor.

5) Repeated keyword searches using different keywords over the course of an hour turned up nothing.

Possible explanations:

1) Math was a real person and his life was as described, but no-one is reporting his death, not even the universities he lectured at. This seems highly unlikely.

2) Math existed, but his life and death were not as described. This is possible.

3) We are being lied to, Math never existed. This seems possible.

I could contact NYU and Columbia to try to verify this, but to be frank, it would be rather too ghoulish a thing for me to want to do just to satisfy my curiosity. Instead, since “The Clock” seems happy to tell us details of Math’s supposed life including his supposed employment, he can at least set our minds at rest by giving us his name.

Until then, I will simply assume that we have not been told the entire truth in this matter, since this is the most likely explanation.

August 30, 2011 @ 3:15 am | Comment

Sounds like a fair conclusion.

August 30, 2011 @ 4:26 am | Comment

Agreed, let’s have a name. It would resolve all issues.

August 30, 2011 @ 5:05 am | Comment

I can almost guarantee that someone at some point, definitely before 2007, gave a real name for Math on this site, as I remember looking him up (and I remember where I was when I looked him up).
Don’t remember his career being quite as illustrious as the Clock claims it was, but oh well.
Also really don’t think I’ll ever find what post it was in, but I could swear that someone posted this… Unless I was seeing Math in my dreams, which would be really disturbing.

August 30, 2011 @ 11:23 am | Comment

Kevin, here is the post you are referring to, where you hypothesize about Math being one Chen Bihong. Everyone who wants to do some sleuthing needs to go to this post. The thread is all about Math and Hong Xing.

As I have said before, the one “person” here who knows Math and can answer our questions is Hong Xing, who disappeared after I posted the “Math is dead?” post.

August 30, 2011 @ 12:10 pm | Comment

Very rarely can you rejoice in someone else’s death and this is no exception. While Math may have been a troll, at least he wasn’t confrontational to other posters and had his own reasons for doing what he did. He obviously believed in what he said, which is more than I can say for some people.

August 30, 2011 @ 2:50 pm | Comment

If it is Chen Bihong, then we have been lied to. Chen Bihong was still at Shenzhen university as a lecturer as of December last year, and was still bitching about the fact that he had no been promoted despite having a doctorate from Qinghua. Chen is not dead according to any information that I could find. Here’s Chen Bihong’s Baidu page:

http://baike.baidu.com/view/457370.htm

Here’s a bunch of people speculating that Chen is Maths:

http://bbs.cyol.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=59606

However, I’m leaning to Maths being entirely a fictional character for the simple reason that such silly claims have been made. A maoist professor of ‘automation’ (with tenure?) who has taught at both Columbia and NYU, and who is universally mourned by prominent organisations which then do not publish news of his death? Pull the other one, it has bells on.

I was willing to entertain the thought that we had been told some of the truth simply on the basis of the IP address that Maths used when he first commented on this site, but there is any number of ways in which Maths could have done this. The lack of any news of the death of such an individual, when not only would such news would have been expected, but would be required by the story as told to us, casts severe doubt apon the story as it has been presented to us.

My best guess is that Maths simply gave up writing his moronic essays because he had run out of whatever warped inspiration that allowed him to write them in the first place – hence the re-posting with minor alteration of five+ year-old posts which has been going on over the past year. Now he wants to cash out in a way that makes him look good. If this is the case, then that makes him and The Clock liars of the worst kind.

August 30, 2011 @ 4:59 pm | Comment

Well, I really didn’t remember the details of that post very clearly (e.g. it was me posting rather than “somebody else,”), but it’s still somewhat interesting. Math’s “death” seems more and more like a prank to me. If so, it would be the most interesting thing Math has done for a while…

August 31, 2011 @ 9:18 am | Comment

This page – http://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/eylu/wuyan/ – has two e-mail addresses for Chen Bihong, one is a Shenzhen uni address the other is this – math@peoplemail.com.cn

September 8, 2011 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

http://tinyurl.com/3eqmsdy
This page includes a collection of writings by Chen Bihong, and the style is oddly similar to Math’s. Of course, this could just be a coincidence of two idiots with similar styles, but Chen Bihong does use the penname “Shuxue,” which means math.

September 9, 2011 @ 5:37 am | Comment

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