Arbital is a platform for finding, reading, and creating crowdsourced, intuitive explanations for
everything math. Several existing websites (Wikipedia, MathOverflow, and Wolfram MathWorld among others) already work well as references, but it’s hard to learn from them unless you are already familiar with the subject. Other websites, like Khan Academy and Better Explained, have some great explanations (at least for K-12 material) but they are limited by the fact that they are closed platforms. Arbital is fundamentally a collaborative platform, which allows everyone to contribute explanations, add examples, and share their expertise.
Ideal explanation platform
What would the ideal platform for (math) explanations look like? For example, if you wanted to learn Bayes’ theorem, what would you want to see behind this link?
The ideal platform would use each reader’s existing knowledge, expertise, and learning preferences to generate a tailored explanation. If they were comfortable with mathematical notation, the ideal platform would show them equations instead of wordy explanations. If they were missing certain prerequisites, the ideal platform would make it easy to catch up on those. If they already knew half the explanation, the ideal platform would skip past it. If one explanation didn’t work for them, the ideal platform would offer another.
The ideal platform would be interactive, as if you were studying with a personal tutor. Asking for a reminder about what a partially ordered set is would be as easy as hovering your mouse over a link. It would be easy to ask questions and instantly get detailed answers. It would be easy to speed up an explanation or slow it down.
The ideal platform would have intuitive, memorable, mind-blowing explanations that reliably produce that magical “click” feeling. The one you get when something finally makes perfect sense.
A few examples:
What if? - Relativistic baseball
Wait Buy Why—Fermi paradox
Better Explained—Intuitive trigonometry
Scott Aarson—Who can name the bigger number?
And videos too:
Vi Hart—Spirals and Fibonacci numbers
US auto industry—How differential steering works
It would be easy to give feedback to authors to help them incrementally improve each page to make that happen.
That ideal platform doesn’t exist yet, but we’re building it, and it’s called Arbital. What you see before you is a beta version, and we’re going to continue working hard to improve it and make our vision a reality.
Enthusiastic community and effective tools
Our top priority is to grow our community of like-minded people who love helping others learn. We are avid learners ourselves, and some of the most interesting things we’ve learned are the ones we’ve taught ourselves outside the context of classrooms and courses. We like explaining things and sharing our knowledge with others. If you look at the success of Wikipedia and MathOverflow, it’s clear that communities with a shared mission can produce amazing, useful, and lasting resources that benefit the whole world.
We aim to amplify each author’s effort by building a new set of tools tailored specifically for reading and collaboratively creating online explanations. We’ve already implemented a number of useful features. We also aim to build an ecosystem of modular pages that will make it easy for authors to reuse existing content and create explanations that can build on each other. We want to empower our authors to write in a way that works best for them, while preserving overall quality.
Future of Arbital
Currently, we are focused on math explanations. Eventually, we plan to move beyond math to computer science, physics, statistics, economics, health, e-sports, and everything else. One day, you’ll be able to use Arbital to get to the very frontier of human knowledge. Then, we’ll extend the platform into one that can foster discussions and help all humanity push that frontier forward.
If you want to see that day come sooner, you can help! You can contribute individual pages, incrementally improve existing pages by proposing edits, and craft entire explanation paths. You can also read, learn, and provide feedback. Each improvement you make helps the entire platform.
Let’s work together to build the best explanation platform this world has ever seen!
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