“I’m typing this with sticky fingers” — my cutest interaction on Math Stack Exchange

Hostility on Math Stack Exchange is a meme. That’s why I am especially happy witnessing or participating in playful exchanges on MSE. I want to share an example of it :)

In the summer of 2023 user blz asked how to solve this puzzle:

I answered that one can equivalently transform those shapes (from Intuitive Topology by Prasolov):

I attached a solution (hidden as a spoiler, ofc!). But also suggested playing with salt dough — it worked for me, #whateverworks. “Question closed”, I thought.

But somebody on the other side of the globe, namely user David Raveh, was still confused. They asked for videos to see “untangling” in motion. I couldn’t find any. Bad luck. So I reiterated the “play with dough” suggestion. And…. after two hours they replied:

I ended up taking your advice (I’m typing this with sticky fingers), and I get it now. I am having a hard time taking pictures of my solution, but thanks for your help.

That’s beautiful. I was moved. This is the kind of thing I am looking for on the web!

Maybe a partial solution to a hostile climate of SE would be to keep two scores: one for merit, and another for the vibe (as it is on the LessWrong).

The #whateverworks is a reference to Woody Allen’s 2009 movie.

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