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This is a wiki-lab for collaborative work on Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy — especially from the n-point of view: insofar as these subjects are usefully treated with tools and notions of category theory or higher category theory.
We think of this wiki as our lab book that we happen to keep open for all to see.
The purpose of the Lab is to provide a public place where people can make notes about stuff. The purpose is not to make polished expositions of material; that is a happy by-product.
We all make notes as we read papers, read books and doodle on pads of paper. The Lab is somewhere to put all those notes, and, incidentally, to make them available to others. Others might read them and add or polish them. But even if they don’t, it is still easier to link from them to other notes that you’ve made.
For more see
While we work on the Lab, we talk to each other on the nForum. In particular, for all but the most trivial edits (correcting spelling or punctuation, etc.), we make a note of our latest edits to the Lab in the part nForum – latest changes, where they may be discussed further.
If you do make contributions to the Lab, you are strongly encouraged to similarly drop a short note there about what you have done – or maybe just about what you plan to do or even what you would like others to do. See Welcome to the nForum for more information.
If you do not want to contribute to the Lab, but if you have comments on an entry – say because you are an expert and feel that information is wrong or missing – or questions – say because you are a layperson and feel that things could be explained better – then we generally prefer that you post that comment or question to the nForum, where it is visible to everybody who might be concerned.
In case that you do feel that this is not an option and that you do need to contact privately (say by email) a single author of an Lab page, please make sure that you know who the right author is. Beware that the Lab pages are visibly “signed” only by the name of the last person who made any edit on the page, no matter how minor. To find the author who made the edit that you want to comment or ask about privately, you should click on the link “History” at the bottom of any page to see which version was authored by whom.
If after looking around for a while you feel like contributing yourself, you are welcome to do so. But read About to be sure you understand what we are doing here (to the extent that we understand this ourselves, at least). If you feel unsure about appropriate content, see What to Contribute. For technical hints see HowTo.
If you make any edits to the Lab, please inform the rest of the Lab community by dropping a brief message in the latest changes section of the nForum!
One goal of the Lab is to help make information widely available and usefully related to other information. In this users and contributors are expected to follow traditional academic practice:
Using and distributing content obtained from the Lab is free and encouraged if you acknowledge the source, as usual in academia.
(There is currently no consensus on a more formal license statement, but if it matters check if relevant individual contributors state such on their nLab homepages.)
If you cite a page you may want to point to a specific version of it, because Lab pages can change. You can find a list of all the versions of a page by clicking on the History link at the bottom of the page itself.
Conversely, any content contributed to the Lab is publicly available and you should be aware that others may use your contributions (whatever you decide to do with their content elsewhere) and indeed may edit them. In the first case you trust that users will cite your contributions properly, in the second that they will respect and only improve on them. At the same time, you are expected to properly acknowledge sources of information for material entered into the Lab.
The Lab displays mathematical symbols using MathML.
Notice that you don’t need to know any MathML. Only your browser does. You write formulas into the Lab between dollar signs in iTeX, which is designed to be very similar to ordinary LaTeX.
Some web-browsers, notably Firefox, know how to display MathML automatically, although you may need to install some fonts. For InternetExplorer one needs the MathPlayer plugin; download is quick and easy and free. For more see HowTo.
Please report technical issues with the nLab at the nForum. If you notice strange behaviour, then others may have already reported it and there may be a temporary fix.
Currently known issues (last updated 2014-05-21) include:
If the lab hangs or is very slow, report it to the ‘Lab down’ thread in the Forum so that an administrator will notice this and restart it.
An error with a funny message about smoke (HTTP 500) will often go away if you simply reload the page. But if it remains, then try deleting your cookies for ncatlab.org or www.ncatlab.org. (Editors: this cookie has your username in it, so you'll have to type that in again when you next edit a page.)
The domain and the Lab’s virtual server are owned (rented) by Urs Schreiber. The technical administration of the software installation is done by Adeel Khan Yusufzai (and was previously done by Andrew Stacey for several years).
The Lab is a community undertaking. But for all matters that do require that the Lab is represented to the outside by an official decision-taking body, we have the steering committee. Nobody “is in charge of the Lab”. But the steering committee is the closest approximation to a body being in charge that we have.