Alena Pirutka gave a great algebraic geometry seminar here last week, about (among many other things!) families of smooth projective varieties containing both rational and non-rational members. We were talking about how you have to give a talk several times before it really starts to be well-put together, and she told me there’s a Russian proverb on the subject: “The first pancake is always strangely shaped.” I am totally going to go around saying this from now on.

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I am disappointed, because I felt sure you would be offering a proof (in algebraic geometry, I guess) of the statement, “The first pancake is always strangely shaped.”

There must be SOME way of interpreting the statement that would make it a true fact, and then there should be a corresponding proof of that fact, don’t you think?

I am picturing some planar structure that is initially constructed from random elements of some kind. Then it undergoes a series of transformations and gradually takes on a more ordered structure as a result of the transformations, which would preferably also have random elements or parameters.

That applies to French crêpes, and my theory is that it has to do with heat distribution and flow reaching a stable state.

As for mathematical talks, I’m not sure if that is really the case however. For instance, it’s unclear to me whether Serre ever gave twice the same talk…

Emmanuel, so we will never know how much better Serre’s second attempt would have been.

I am sure many siblings would agree with this proverb regarding their older sibling.

A more faithful translation of the Russian proverb is “The first pancake is lumpy”.