Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Fermat's Last Theorem in fiction (3rd nomination)

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The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposed deletion of the article below. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page (such as the article's talk page or in a deletion review). No further edits should be made to this page.

The result was keep. General consensus against deletion, although this is not to prevent anyone from restructuring the article in the way mentioned by TompaDompa. Stifle (talk) 08:58, 1 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Fermat's Last Theorem in fiction[edit]

Fermat's Last Theorem in fiction (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) – (View log | edits since nomination)
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The article (de facto a list) was improved during the prior AfD when references have been added by User:XOR'easter (it had zero before). Unfortunately, it is still very problematic, as it is a list of media in which this topic appears. There is no source that shows such a list has been subject to discussion outside Wikipedia (fails WP:NLIST: " One accepted reason why a list topic is considered notable is if it has been discussed as a group or set by independent reliable sources"). If we look at it as a "in popular culture" article, it fails WP:IPC. I don't see any source that discusses this topic (FLT in fiction, or FLT in popular culture, etc.). Which means this fails WP:OR and WP:GNG; the claim in the lead that "The problem in number theory known as "Fermat's Last Theorem" has repeatedly received attention in fiction and popular culture.", while arguably true, is unreferenced and unless it can be - with a secondary, reliable source that meets WP:SIGCOV - this article a major problem with the above-mentioned policies. While now, yes, referenced, I fear this is simply not encyclopedic material, just a TVTropic, WP:INDISCRIMINATE list of all media which mentions this topic. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 12:04, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Strong keep – Fermat's 1637 claim, only recently proved, is perhaps the most famous problem in mathematics and has captured the imagination of mathematicians and lay people for centuries.The statement that it "has repeatedly received attention in fiction and popular culture" is not just "arguably true," it is amply demonstrated by the article's contents, which our introductions are supposed to summarize. Merriam-Webster defines encyclopedia as "a work that contains information on all branches of knowledge or treats comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge..." It is not a limiting term. The list of instances here could be merged into the primary article without the summary sentence, but that article is already long and splitting out the material in a separate article is appropriate editorial judgement. The contents of this article are of significant interest to our readers. It has survived two deletions reviews. Enough already.--agr (talk) 12:49, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Keep, the content passes MOS:POPCULT based on the sources in the article and it is appropriate to have a seperate article on this per WP:SUMMARY. SailingInABathTub (talk) 15:23, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @SailingInABathTub Please elaborate on how POPCULT is met. It states: "all such references should be discussed in at least one reliable secondary or tertiary source which specifically links the cultural item to the subject of the article. This source should cover the subject of the article in some depth; it should not be a source that merely mentions the subject's appearance in a movie, song, television show, or other cultural item." Which references go beyond mentioning the subject's appearance and "in some depth...links the cultural item to the subject of the article", i.e. provide a non trivial discussion of how a given work of fiction is connected to the topic of the Fermat's Last Theorem? Ideally, a short quotation would be preferred. TIA. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 15:48, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Per POPCULT: "This guideline does not suggest removing trivia sections, or moving them to the talk page. If information is otherwise suitable, it is better that it be poorly presented than not presented at all."--agr (talk) 17:10, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @ArnoldReinhold The question, then, is our interpretation of "otherwise suitable"... Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 08:25, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    This article has been around since 2007 and has been edited by dozens of contributors who thought the material suitable, And it has survived two previous deletion attempts. Who now gets to "interpret" suitability, ignoring all those past voices?--agr (talk) 02:13, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In addition to the first source in this article,[1] there are many reliable secondary sources which specifically link a cultural item to Fermat's last theorem. The sources all cover the theorem in some depth.[2][3][4][5][6]


  1. ^ Jay Garmon (21 February 2006). "Geek Trivia: The math behind the myth". TechRepublic. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  2. ^ Anna Davis (7 October 2013). "One plus one equals Doh! How The Simpsons can teach children maths". Evening Standard. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  3. ^ Dan Solomon (1 February 2022). "The Secret Story of the Texas Philanthropist Who Helped Solve Math's Toughest Riddle". TexasMonthly. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  4. ^ Kevin Knudson (20 August 2015). "The Math Of Star Trek: How Trying To Solve Fermat's Last Theorem Revolutionized Mathematics". Forbes. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  5. ^ Simon Singh (22 September 2013). "The Simpsons' secret formula: it's written by maths geeks". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  6. ^ Robert Krulwich (11 May 2014). "Did Homer Simpson Actually Solve Fermat's Last Theorem? Take A Look". NPR. Retrieved 20 May 2022.

SailingInABathTub (talk) 19:44, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@SailingInABathTub The sources do suggest that the topic is notable, but precious little if anything from the current article is rescuable (and the sources are not great, since they generally focus on the use of the theorem in one piece of media; they say very little if anything aobut "Fermat's Last Theorem in fiction", as in, they don't address the "big picture" outside few passing mentions. This is the case of WP:TNT, or a proper rewrite needed. Referencing a list of trivia is just, sorry to say, a waste of time. It needs to rewritten into an analytical piece. If you think this can be done with the current sourcing, by all means, take a stab, and ping me when there's a paragraph here that's not a bullet point trivia that FLT was mentioned in The Simpsons or whatever. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 08:30, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree that prose is preferable to a list format, but this can be resolved through the normal editing process. SailingInABathTub (talk) 11:57, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It could, if there was anything to rescue except categories and external links/see also. As thing stand, the only difference between hard and soft deletion would be that in the latter case, edit history would be preserved. I would, in fact, prefer this outcome, but it would require someone to start rewriting this properly now, during the AfD. Otherwise, this will be deleted, with no prejudice to someone writing this anew from scratch. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 16:22, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
What is your policy-based reasoning that there is nothing to be rescued? WP:OR? I think that it's clear from the reliable sources that exist, that they directly support the content. SailingInABathTub (talk) 16:40, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And POPCULT. Yes, we can reference that such and such work mentioned this, but it is OR to claim this constitutes a notable example of the use of this work. Maybe a few sentences could be salvaged, like the content about The Simpsons, but first, we need to have at least a stubish few sentences about the main topic. We can't have an article that consists of a claim that FLT has been extensively referenced in fiction backed up with no reliable source saying this, then one or two or three examples. Such a tiny article, at best, would merit an immediate merger to Fermat's_Last_Theorem#In_popular_culture. In fact, now that I look, that section is already in prose format and superior to this OPish article, which contains even less analysis, and just more trivial examples. As such, I'd suggest we just redirect this there, with no loss of non-trivial content. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 16:49, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The article does not make the claim that "FLT has been extensively referenced in fiction". The article only claims that it has "repeatedly received attention in fiction and popular culture" a claim which is validated by the sources that I have provided and that you yourself in your nomination acknowledge is true. SailingInABathTub (talk) 17:34, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@SailingInABathTub As I said, due to sparsity of examples meeting IPC, there is not much to rescue here. We could possibly have a stub of few sentences, but what's the point, given that we have a perfectly acceptable section in the main article that would be its exact duplicate? That section now has a proper lead in sentence I've added based on a source you found, and discusses the two apparently most famous appearances in media and pop culture that you also referenced, i.e. the Star Trek and The Simpsons use. What else is there to keep? Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 07:38, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think we both know that almost everything that has a half decent source in this article will then end up in main article, only for the section to be split off once again per WP:SUMMARY and David_Eppstein (talk · contribs). It's pointless to delete a notable article that is clearly needed. SailingInABathTub (talk) 22:43, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The argument that we should keep bad content in location A to keep it out of location B is a terrible one. Just remove the bad content instead. Having a weak-scope sub-article for the sole purpose of keeping the main article clean is a bad solution that stems from a reluctance to remove excessive material that doesn't improve the main article. As WP:CARGO says: Moving bad content into a separate standalone article does not get rid of the bad content. TompaDompa (talk) 16:50, 23 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Exactly. Don't we have an essay on that? Ping UseR:TenPoundHammer, maybe they know the right one? Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 17:49, 23 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Delete as Wikipedia articles are supposed to (a) meet our policies and (b) have reliable independent sources, despite bald claims that WP:ITSFAMOUS. This article is entirely WP:OR, built off the original observations of various editors, without any reliable sources. WP:OR says if no reliable independent sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article about it. No independent reliable sources have provided WP:SIGCOV of the topic of this theorem in popular culture. Even if such sources appeared, there would be nothing to WP:PRESERVE from this article as it is composed of entirely WP:NOT suitable content. Shooterwalker (talk) 18:29, 20 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Keep or merge. I think it's obvious that this article should either be kept or merged into Fermat's_Last_Theorem#In_popular_culture, which is a short version of this article. The topic is of high interest. The claim by Shooterwalker that it is OR ignores the fact that collecting information from outside is what an encyclopedia does; that is not an argument against keeping this. Zaslav (talk) 21:14, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Keep, do not merge. The existence of this article is necessary, per Wikipedia:Summary style, as an overflow valve to keep the example farm in the main article from being overrun with minor examples, as it has already started to do again today in edits by User:Piotrus and User:Zaslav in the wake of this AfD. —David Eppstein (talk) 21:51, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • PS I also found a publication (in Spanish) overviewing this exact subject: [1]. It is also covered in multiple paragraphs (although not the main topic of the article) at [2]. So there's a case for WP:GNG notability for this specific topic. —David Eppstein (talk) 05:12, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @David Eppstein Uh, do you even look at the content? Zaslav didn't add anyting, but removed much content. I added an example that arguably is not "minor", but arguably the most relevant analytical "big treatment" we have, and that wasn't present in either article. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 07:33, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @Piotrus: Did you even look at the edit history? At the time I made this comment, Zaslav's only edit was Special:Diff/1089087979, which was indeed an addition. The removal came later. —David Eppstein (talk) 07:38, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Well, you still misunderstood my comment, and Zaslav changed his half an hour later, so... Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 08:02, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Good argument, but one can't compare the importance of Arthur Porges's classic story, which is all about the mathematics, with a minor Star Trek episode. I'm tempted to cut out the truly trivial from the main page. Zaslav (talk) 22:23, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Keep. Adding to David Eppstein's length argument: the main page is already overloaded (much too long). Even cutting out "Popular culture" entirely would not make a difference. Zaslav (talk) 22:35, 21 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Zaslav I don't understand what your argument has to do with the keep? Are you opposing the merger? That's fine, but why keep the list of trivia on Wikipedia at all? Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 07:34, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You are correct, but I'm not prepared to decide whether there is enough material here to make an article, so I'm suggesting keep until someone can prune out the inappropriate trivia. If nothing much is left, then we can merge the remainder. If much remains, we can keep it. I hope this answers you well. Zaslav (talk) 22:04, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Comment I think you're all missing the actual solution here: create a proper prose article on the broader topic Mathematics in fiction (currently a WP:REDLINK), cover Fermat's Last Theorem there in WP:PROPORTION to its treatment in the body of reliable, published material on the subject, and then redirect this title there. This should be a satisfactory WP:PAGEDECIDE solution to everyone since the topic of Mathematics in fiction actually does have WP:Significant coverage as an overarching topic in multiple WP:Reliable sources. If I find the time, I'll probably do this in the coming days. I must also say I am not sympathetic to the view that we should have articles like this as an overflow valve to keep the example farm in the main article from being overrun with minor examples—if it is indeed an WP:EXAMPLEFARM, the solution is to get rid of it rather than to move it elsewhere (see the essay WP:CARGO: Moving bad content into a separate standalone article does not get rid of the bad content.) TompaDompa (talk) 03:38, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • I am going to propose a compromise alternative, which is to move this to Mathematics in fiction for now, with the explicit possibility of breaking it out into a new article again if 1) the proposed article grows large enough that it merits subdivision, and 2) content on this specific aspect continues to grow (without the addition of trivialities) to the point that it merits more than a subsection in a mathematics in fiction article. As it stands, I think that it does not. However, there are plenty of movies (almost to the point of tropedom), where the janitor or some idiot savant solves the unsolvable problem left on the blackboard. BD2412 T 06:40, 28 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @BD2412 May I suggest that you try to at least stub such an entry first, then we could redirect the current article there? The problem is that most of the examples here are irrelevant (i.e. that listing them fails MOS:POPCULT: "Cultural references about a subject should not be included simply because they exist. Rather, all such references should be discussed in at least one reliable secondary or tertiary source which specifically links the cultural item to the subject of the article"). So just changing a name is hardly an improvement if that cruft will stay. Likewise, mathematics in fiction should not be a listing of all media in which math was mentioned in... Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 08:49, 28 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Comments Although shorter than Fermat's Last Theorem, the binomial theorem has a section related to popular culture. --SilverMatsu (talk) 01:52, 29 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Which should be deleted as it is pure WP:TRIVIA failing MOS:POPCULTURE... sadly, nothing to merge to the possibly-to-come 'mathematics in culture' article. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 08:44, 29 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page (such as the article's talk page or in a deletion review). No further edits should be made to this page.