Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics - MathOverflow most recent 30 from http://mathoverflow.net 2013-05-21T14:59:28Z http://mathoverflow.net/feeds/question/3559 http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/rdf http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Armin Straub 2009-10-31T16:27:28Z 2012-08-26T15:33:44Z <p>As the title says, please share colloquial statements that encode (in a non-rigorous way, of course) some nontrivial mathematical fact (or heuristic). Instead of giving examples here I added them as answers so they may be voted up and down with the rest.</p> <p>This is a community-wiki question: One colloquial statement and its mathematical meaning per answer please!</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3561#3561 Answer by Armin Straub for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Armin Straub 2009-10-31T16:29:32Z 2009-10-31T16:29:32Z <blockquote> <p>It's not possible to comb a hedgehog.</p> </blockquote> <p>Or, alternatively:</p> <blockquote> <p>You can't comb the hair on a coconut.</p> </blockquote> <p>Both statements are referring to the fact that every continuous tangent vector field on the 2-sphere has to vanish at some point. That's the well known <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy%5Fball%5Ftheorem" rel="nofollow">Hairy ball theorem</a>.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3562#3562 Answer by Armin Straub for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Armin Straub 2009-10-31T16:36:02Z 2009-10-31T16:36:02Z <blockquote> <p>A drunk man will find his way home, but a drunk bird may get lost forever.</p> </blockquote> <p>This encodes the fact that a 2-dimensional <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random%5Fwalk" rel="nofollow">random walk</a> is recurrent (appropriately defined for either the discrete or continuous case) whereas in higher dimensions random walks are not. More details can be found for instance in <a href="http://godplaysdice.blogspot.com/2007/09/variations-on-drunken-bird-theorem-and.html" rel="nofollow">this enjoyable blog post</a> by Michael Lugo.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3566#3566 Answer by Armin Straub for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Armin Straub 2009-10-31T16:46:59Z 2009-10-31T16:46:59Z <blockquote> <p>Black holes have no hair.</p> </blockquote> <p>This <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No%5Fhair%5Ftheorem" rel="nofollow">no-hair theorem</a> "postulates that all black hole solutions of the Einstein-Maxwell equations of gravitation and electromagnetism in general relativity can be completely characterized by only three externally observable classical parameters: mass, electric charge, and angular momentum".</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3570#3570 Answer by Michael Lugo for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Michael Lugo 2009-10-31T17:21:18Z 2009-10-31T17:21:18Z <p>The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ham_sandwich_theorem" rel="nofollow">ham sandwich theorem</a> comes to mind: given n measurable sets in <b>R</b><sup>n</sup>, there is a hyperplane (i. e. an affine subspace of codimension 1) that bisects them all. I don't know of a colloquial way to state this, though.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3581#3581 Answer by bhwang for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics bhwang 2009-10-31T19:04:45Z 2009-10-31T19:04:45Z <blockquote> <p>There is a way to cut up a pea and rearrange the pieces to get the sun.</p> </blockquote> <p>As a corollary of the Banach-Tarski paradox, we have that if A and B are bounded subsets of R^n (n > 2) with nonempty interior, there exists a partition of A into k pieces {A1, ..., Ak} and isometries of R^n {f1, ... , fk} so {f1A1, ... , fkAk} partitions B.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3611#3611 Answer by Terry Tao for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Terry Tao 2009-10-31T22:38:42Z 2009-10-31T22:38:42Z <blockquote> <p>Complete disorder is impossible.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the standard way of summing up <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsey%5Ftheory" rel="nofollow">Ramsey theory</a> in a succinct sentence (according to that Wikipedia article, the above quote is due to Motzkin).</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3615#3615 Answer by Sam Derbyshire for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Sam Derbyshire 2009-10-31T23:11:43Z 2009-10-31T23:11:43Z <blockquote> <p>After stirring a cup of coffee, at least one point will end up in the exact same position as it was before.</p> </blockquote> <p>Being an approximate statement of Brouwer's fixed point theorem.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3618#3618 Answer by Sam Derbyshire for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Sam Derbyshire 2009-10-31T23:15:53Z 2009-10-31T23:15:53Z <blockquote> <p>Take a map of wherever you are and lay it on the ground. There will be exactly one point on the map that is directly above the point it represents on the ground.</p> </blockquote> <p>This refers to Banach's fixed point theorem.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3619#3619 Answer by michael lacey for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics michael lacey 2009-10-31T23:18:06Z 2009-10-31T23:18:06Z <p><strong> Time Average is the Space Average </strong></p> <p>which is the the Ergodic Theorem. </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3638#3638 Answer by Rune for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Rune 2009-11-01T04:02:13Z 2009-11-01T04:02:13Z <blockquote> <p>"The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain." -- Jacques Hadamard</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess he meant that often the best proof of a theorem about real numbers uses complex analysis.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3642#3642 Answer by Halfdan Faber for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Halfdan Faber 2009-11-01T04:29:17Z 2009-11-01T04:35:10Z <p>You Canâ€™t Unscramble Scrambled Eggs</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3675#3675 Answer by Terry Tao for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Terry Tao 2009-11-01T15:40:34Z 2009-11-01T15:40:34Z <blockquote> <p>"Can you hear the shape of a drum?"</p> </blockquote> <p>This was <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing%5Fthe%5Fshape%5Fof%5Fa%5Fdrum" rel="nofollow">Kac's famous way</a> of asking whether the shape of a two-dimensional domain could be reconstructed from the spectrum of the Laplacian on that domain. (The answer, by the way, is "no", at least if one allows the domain to have corners.)</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3679#3679 Answer by Richard Kent for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Richard Kent 2009-11-01T16:23:31Z 2009-11-01T16:23:31Z <blockquote> <p>"Chewy on the outside, crunchy on the inside."</p> </blockquote> <p>The way that Dick Canary would characterize hyperbolic 3-manifolds with nonempty (and nonrigid) conformal boundary.</p> <blockquote> <p>"Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside."</p> </blockquote> <p>Description of Rich Schwartz's complex hyperbolic manifold with conformal boundary a real hyperbolic manifold.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3705#3705 Answer by Rick Rubenstein for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Rick Rubenstein 2009-11-01T20:37:14Z 2009-11-01T20:42:49Z <blockquote> <p>It's better to be lucky than good.</p> </blockquote> <p>P != NP. A nondeterministic polynomial is one which is always "lucky".</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3706#3706 Answer by Thomas Sauvaget for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Thomas Sauvaget 2009-11-01T20:47:16Z 2009-11-01T20:47:16Z <p>Fields medalist René Thom famously wrote: </p> <blockquote> <p>Ce qui limite le vrai n'est pas le faux, mais l'insignifiant. (Approx translation: "What limits truth is not wrongfulness, it's meaninglessness.")</p> </blockquote> <p>This refers to the basic mathematical issue that one must only consider <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well-formed%5Fformula" rel="nofollow">well-formed formulas</a> rather than arbitrary ones.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3707#3707 Answer by Thomas Sauvaget for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Thomas Sauvaget 2009-11-01T21:02:41Z 2009-11-01T21:21:29Z <blockquote> <p>Odd is better, but three is best.</p> </blockquote> <p>This refers to the fact that "sound" propagation in arbitrary dimensions (using the wave equation on an initial pulse) is only possible in odd-dimensional spaces (in even dimensions there's an ever-lasting echo), and that dispersion-free propagation only happens for dimension three. </p> <p>See this paper where I saw the quote: <a href="http://www.physics.iitm.ac.in/~labs/dynamical/pedagogy/vb/3dpart1.pdf" rel="nofollow">part one</a>, <a href="http://www.physics.iitm.ac.in/~labs/dynamical/pedagogy/vb/3dpart2.pdf" rel="nofollow">part two</a>, although the fact itself seems to be known for ages (I have no access but an <a href="http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0370-1298/68/6/307" rel="nofollow">old paper</a> by Balazs seems relevant too), possibly this even goes back to Petrovskii according to an <a href="http://www.ams.org/notices/199704/arnold.pdf" rel="nofollow">interview of Arnold</a> (see p434). </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3938#3938 Answer by abyaly for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics abyaly 2009-11-03T14:47:02Z 2009-11-03T14:47:02Z <p>An anagram for "Banach Tarski" is "Banach Tarski Banach Tarski"</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/3950#3950 Answer by Diego de Estrada for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Diego de Estrada 2009-11-03T16:21:39Z 2009-11-03T16:21:39Z <blockquote> <p>All primes are odd except 2, which is the oddest of all.</p> </blockquote> <p>This <a href="http://mathoverflow.net/questions/915/is-there-a-high-concept-explanation-for-why-characteristic-2-is-special" rel="nofollow">has been discussed before</a>. The quote is from "Concrete Mathematics," but it's a rephrasal of one of J.H. Conway in "The book of numbers."</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/8427#8427 Answer by Darsh Ranjan for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Darsh Ranjan 2009-12-10T06:39:23Z 2009-12-10T06:39:23Z <blockquote> <p>Period three implies chaos. </p> </blockquote> <p>This summarizes a paper (of the same name) by Li and Yorke. The full statement of the main theorem is that if a continuous transformation of an interval has a point whose orbit has length three, then there exist points whose orbits are completely chaotic (in addition to points with orbits of every other possible finite length). </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/8481#8481 Answer by Suresh Venkat for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Suresh Venkat 2009-12-10T20:44:32Z 2009-12-10T20:44:32Z <p>Trust, but verify. </p> <p>this is the defn of NP, of course, but for a certain generation, it has Reaganesque overtones. </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/8486#8486 Answer by Dan Piponi for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Dan Piponi 2009-12-10T21:19:17Z 2009-12-10T21:19:17Z <p>All diagrams commute.</p> <p>The actual theorem is <a href="http://unapologetic.wordpress.com/2007/06/29/mac-lanes-coherence-theorem/" rel="nofollow">Mac Lane's Coherence Theorem</a> or any of a number of other <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=coherence+%22all+diagrams+commute%22" rel="nofollow">coherence theorems</a> that guarantee that all category diagrams built from certain elements commute.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/9691#9691 Answer by Dima Fon-Der-Flaass for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Dima Fon-Der-Flaass 2009-12-24T17:53:02Z 2009-12-24T17:53:02Z <blockquote> <p>A brain tangled enough to tackle itself must be too tangled to tackle.</p> </blockquote> <p>A neat formulation of Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem. From the novel "Galatea 2.2" by R.Powers.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/9702#9702 Answer by nibot-lab for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics nibot-lab 2009-12-24T20:28:58Z 2009-12-24T20:28:58Z <p><b>"Space tells matter how to move; matter tells space how to curve."</b></p> <p>This is the quintessential colloquial expression of the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_field_equations" rel="nofollow">Einstein field equations</a> that govern general relativity.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/13540#13540 Answer by B. Bischof for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics B. Bischof 2010-01-31T04:40:19Z 2010-01-31T04:40:19Z <blockquote> <p>Local is global</p> </blockquote> <p>The very first thing I heard about sheaves, from another graduate student.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/14112#14112 Answer by Gordon Buchanan for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Gordon Buchanan 2010-02-04T04:21:57Z 2010-02-04T04:21:57Z <p>There is no free lunch. Refers to risk/reward in financial investment and the fact that an efficient market moves to the point where you can only make money by taking risk.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/14148#14148 Answer by Saju Pillai for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Saju Pillai 2010-02-04T14:25:30Z 2010-02-04T14:25:30Z <p>Numbers are mutually friendly if they share their abundancy</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/16073#16073 Answer by Chad Groft for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Chad Groft 2010-02-22T18:26:06Z 2010-02-22T18:26:06Z <blockquote> <p>Truth is undefinable,</p> </blockquote> <p>which is a statement of Tarski's theorem. More precisely,</p> <blockquote> <p>Truth in a context where one can do arithmetic is undefinable in that context.</p> </blockquote> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/54354#54354 Answer by Matt Hickford for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Matt Hickford 2011-02-04T19:58:59Z 2011-02-04T19:58:59Z <blockquote> <p>There is a pair of antipodal points on the surface of the Earth at equal temperature and equal pressure.</p> </blockquote> <p>The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borsuk%E2%80%93Ulam_theorem" rel="nofollow">Borsuk-Ulam theorem</a> for n=2. Suppose $f: \mathbb{S}^n \rightarrow \mathbb{R}^n$ is a continuous map. Then $\exists x: f(x) = f(-x)$.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/54495#54495 Answer by Sean Tilson for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Sean Tilson 2011-02-06T05:30:30Z 2011-02-06T05:30:30Z <p>"If it walks like a sphere and it quacks like a sphere then it is a sphere."</p> <p>A professor at my university explained the Poincare Conjecture to his 1st semester abstract algebra students this way. I think it is a great explanation!</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/54518#54518 Answer by Nate Eldredge for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Nate Eldredge 2011-02-06T14:05:26Z 2011-02-06T14:05:26Z <blockquote> <p>A city is <strong>compact</strong> if it can be patrolled by finitely many nearsighted police officers.</p> </blockquote> <p>I believe this is due to Peter Lax. Of course one must take some care with quantifiers to make this a correct definition, but I think it captures the spirit nicely.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/54520#54520 Answer by Michael Renardy for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Michael Renardy 2011-02-06T14:37:55Z 2011-02-06T14:37:55Z <p>If n people are in an elevator and n+1 buttons are pushed, there is at least one pigeon brain in the elevator.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/62169#62169 Answer by Margaret Friedland for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Margaret Friedland 2011-04-18T20:28:05Z 2011-04-18T20:44:24Z <p>"If you are walking between two policemen going to the same station, you will end up there, too."</p> <p>This encodes the familiar Squeeze Theorem: If $a_n,b_n, c_n$ are sequences of real numbers such that $a_n \leq b_n \leq c_n$ and $\lim_{n \to \infty}a_n =\lim_{n \to \infty} c_n$, then $\lim_{n \to \infty}a_n =\lim_{n \to \infty} c_n= \lim_{n \to \infty}b_n$.</p> <p>I am not sure whether it counts as "serious mathematics", but this is how I learned it as a high school student in Communist-ruled Poland.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/62171#62171 Answer by Margaret Friedland for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Margaret Friedland 2011-04-18T20:36:27Z 2011-04-18T20:36:27Z <p>Another one: not so much a catchphrase, but a nifty interpretation of a theorem:</p> <p>"Suppose a human is walking a dog on the leash and they encounter a lamp post. Then, if the leash is kept short enough, the human and the dog wind around the post the same number of times."</p> <p>I learned this interpretation of Rouche's Theorem from the textbook in complex analysis by Saff and Snider. They include pictures, too. </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/62190#62190 Answer by Michael Hardy for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Michael Hardy 2011-04-19T02:44:14Z 2011-04-19T02:44:14Z <p>A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/62194#62194 Answer by Allen Hatcher for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Allen Hatcher 2011-04-19T04:11:11Z 2011-04-19T04:11:11Z <p>"A projective module is the splittin' image of a free module." </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/62208#62208 Answer by Douglas Bowman for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Douglas Bowman 2011-04-19T07:21:01Z 2011-04-19T07:21:01Z <p>I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the famous,</p> <blockquote> <p>"Four colors suffice."</p> </blockquote> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/64320#64320 Answer by Wesley Tansey for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Wesley Tansey 2011-05-08T20:18:34Z 2011-05-08T20:18:34Z <blockquote>There's no such thing as a free lunch.</blockquote> <p>This refers to the No Free Lunch theorem. The theorem states that it's impossible to develop a search optimization algorithm that works well for all possible problems. Rather, for every class of problems which a given algorithm performs well at, there is a complementary class for which it does not. Thus, you may think you're getting a free lunch, but you're really just paying for it somewhere else.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/64328#64328 Answer by Michael Renardy for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Michael Renardy 2011-05-08T22:03:15Z 2011-05-08T22:03:15Z <p>Kronecker was wrong: God did not make the integers. He only made the empty set. Then He made mathematicians so they could make the integers from the empty set.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/64351#64351 Answer by Ron Maimon for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Ron Maimon 2011-05-09T04:45:12Z 2011-05-10T02:52:15Z <p>The consequences of this little harmless looking statement are deep enough that I worry that the majority will think that it is provably wrong.</p> <p>Simple statement:</p> <ul> <li>"You can pick a real number at random between 0 and 1, so that any number is as likely as any other."</li> </ul> <p>more colloquially, (Freiling):</p> <ul> <li>"You can throw a dart at the unit square."</li> </ul> <p>more computer-scienc-y:</p> <ul> <li>"The process of coin flipping to determine the binary digits of a real number converges to a unique well defined real number answer in the limit of infinitely many throws".</li> </ul> <p>The interpretation of this statement is not that the probability distribution of the result is a well defined function, nor that statements about whether this number is in this or that Borel set can be assigned a probability--- both these assertions are true and boring. The assertion above is that a real number "x" produced in this way actually exists as an element of the mathematical universe, and every question you can ask of it, including "does x belong to this arbitrary subset S of [0,1]" gets a well defined yes or no answer in the limit. If you believe this assertion is self-evidently true, as I do, beware the implications!</p> <ul> <li>The continuum hypothesis is false. (Sierpinsky,Freiling)</li> </ul> <p>For contradiction, well order [0,1] with order type aleph-1, then choose two numbers x,y at random in [0,1]. What is the probability that $y\le x$ in the well-ordering? Since the set ${ z|z\le y}$ is countable for any y, the answer is 0. The same thing works whenever sets of cardinality less than the continuum always have zero Lebesgue measure.</p> <ul> <li>Every subset of [0,1] has well-defined Lebesgue measure. (Solovay, more or less)</li> </ul> <p>Make a countable list of independent numbers $x_i$, and ask for each one whether the number is in the set S or not. The fraction of random picks which land in S will define the Lebesgue measure of S. In more detail, if you write down a "1" every time $x_i$ is in S, and write down a zero when $x_i$ is not in S, then the number of ones divided by the number of throws converges to a unique real number, which defines the Lebesgue measure of S.</p> <p>In this forum, somewhere or other, someone had the idea that this process will not converge for sets S which are not measurable, alternating between long strings of "0"s and long strings of "1"s in such a way that it will not have an average frequency of 1's. This is impossible, because the picks are independent. That means that any permutation of the 0's and 1's is as likely as any other. If you have a long string of N zeros and ones, the only permutation invariant of these bits is the number of ones. Any segregation of zeros or ones that has oscillating mean has less than epsilon probability whenever the mean number of ones after M throws, deviates by more than a few times $\sqrt{\ln \epsilon}/\sqrt{N}$ from the mean established by the first N throws.</p> <p>It is astonishing to me that someone here simultaneously holds in their head the two ideas: "there exists a non measurable subset of [0,1]" and "you can choose a real number at random between [0,1]". The negation of the first statement is the precise statement of the second.</p> <p>(Solovay defined this stuff precisely, but did not accept the resulting model as true. Others take the axiom of determinacy, thereby establishing that all subsets of R are measurable and that choice fails for the continuum, but determinacy is a stronger statement than "you can pick in [0,1]".)</p> <ul> <li>The axiom of choice fails, already for sets of size the continuum.</li> </ul> <p>Since the axiom of choice easily gives a non-measurable set.</p> <ul> <li>The continuum has no well order.</li> </ul> <p>This is because you could then do choice on the reals. So the first bullet on this list should really be rephrased as "the continuum hypothesis is just a stupid question".</p> <ul> <li>Sorry, you can NOT cut up a grape and rearrange the pieces so that it is bigger than the sun.</li> </ul> <p>Simply because if you put a grape next to the sun, and pick a random point in a big box that surrounds both, the probability that the random point lands in the grape is less than the probability that it lands in the sun. The Lebesgue measure of the pieces is well defined, and invariant under translations and rotations, so it never amounts to more than the measure of the grape.</p> <ul> <li>The reals which are in "L", the Godel constructable universe, have measure zero.</li> </ul> <p>When the axiom of Choice holds for all elements of the powerset of Z (i.e. R), then the pea can be split up and rearranged to make the sun. The axiom of choice holds in L, so that the Godel constructible L-points in the pea can be cut up and rotated and translated to fit over the L-points of the sun. This means that these points make a measure zero set, both in the pea and in the sun, when considered as a sub-collection of the real numbers which admit random picks.</p> <p>To understand the Godel constructible universe, and choice, I will pretend that the phrase "Godel constructible" simply means "computable." This is a bald-faced lie. the Godel constructible universe contains many non-computable numbers, but they all resemble computable numbers, in that they are defined by a process which takes an ordinal number of steps and at each step uses only text sentences of ZF acting on previously defined objects. If you replace ordinal by "omega" and "text sentences acting on previously defined elements" by "arithmetical operations defined on previously defined memory", you get computable as opposed to Godel-constructible. To well order the Godel universe, you just order the objects constructed at each ordinal step by alphabetical order and ordinal birthday. To well order the computable reals, you just order their shortest program alphabetically (like the well-ordering of the Godel-universe, this ordering is explicitly definable, but not computable).</p> <ul> <li>That stupid hat trick doesn't work in the random-pick real numbers</li> </ul> <p>There is a recently popularized puzzle: A demon puts a hat, either red or green, on the head of a countably infinite number of people. Each person sees everyone else's hat, and is told to simultaneously guess the color on their heads. If infinitely many get this wrong, everybody loses. If only finitely many people get the answer wrong, everybody wins.</p> <p>When the demon picks the hat color randomly on each person's head, they lose. Each person has 50% chance of getting their hat right. End of story. Nothing more to say. Really. This is why set theory has nothing to do with weather prediction.</p> <ul> <li>The stupid hat trick does work over the computable reals, but is intuitive.</li> </ul> <p>If the demon is forced to place hats according to a fixed definite computer program, there are only countably many different programs, the demon must pick a program, and stick with it. Then it is reasonable that each person can figure out the program used from the infinite answers at their disposal, up to a finite number of errors.</p> <p>Supposing the people are provided just with some halting oracles and a prearranged agreement regarding computer programs. They do not need a choice function on the continuum. The people see the other hats, and they test the computer programs one by one, in lexicographic order, until they find the shortest program consistent with what they see. They then go through all the programs again, until they find the shortest program on integers which will give be only different from what they see in finitely many places (this requires a stronger oracle, but it still doesn't require a choice function). Then they answer with the value of this program at their own position.</p> <p>(more precisely, to see everyone else's hat means that the demon provides a program which will give the value of everyone elses hat. You use the halting oracle to test whether each program successively will answer correctly on everyone else's hat, until you find the shortest program that does so.)</p> <p>This version also has application to weather prediction: by studying the weather long enough, you can guess that it is obeying the Navier Stokes equations. Then you can simulate these equations to predict the weather. Come to think of it, this is exactly what we humans did.</p> <ul> <li>The stupid hat trick is also intuitive in L, so long as you always think inside a countable model of ZF(C).</li> </ul> <p>The demon again is constrained to definable reals below omega one, which is now secretly a countable ordinal (but ZF doesn't know it). So there is very little difference between the conceptual method to guess the definable real, except that now it isn't so easy to interpret things in terms of oracles.</p> <ul> <li>There is no problem with "$R_L$, the L version of R, coexisting inside $R_R$, the actual version of R, in your mental model of the universe.</li> </ul> <p>The axiom of choice is true in L, which includes a particular model for the real numbers (and all powersets). This model is fine for interpreting all the counterintuitive statements of ZFC, since they are just plain true in L. When you read a choicy theorem, you just imagine little "L" subscripts on the theorem, and then it is true (this is called relativizing to L in logic). But you always keep in mind that L is measure zero. Then that's it. There are no more intuitive paradoxes.</p> <p>Your mental axiom system for no-intuitive-paradox mathematics than can be this</p> <p>ZF (but you interpret powerset as "L-powerset")</p> <p>V=L (and therefore Choice for all sets in your universe, and the continuum hypothesis for the constructible reals, and for the constructible powersets)</p> <p>For each set S in the universe L, (which is well-ordered by V=L), there is a non-well-orderable proper class of subsets of S, the true power-class. Every subclass of a powerclass has a real valued Lebesgue measure, and every subset (meaning well-orderable sub-SET, not a non-well-orderable subCLASS) of a powerclass has measure zero. All powerclasses are the same size, since they are not powerclasses of previous powerclasses, just powerclasses of dinky little sets. The measure of the proper-class completion of the dinky little measure-zero L-Borel sets is the same as the measure assigned to these Borel sets in L.</p> <p>This system does nothing but shuffle the intuition around. There is no new real mathematics here (no new arithmetic theorems). But with this in your head, you banish all the choice paradoxes to the dustbin of history. No more puzzles, no more paradoxes, no more nothing. This has been a public service announcement.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/64469#64469 Answer by christian-bankester for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics christian-bankester 2011-05-10T06:23:58Z 2011-05-10T06:23:58Z <p>If you save a penny a day, eventually you will become a millionaire. This is a loose paraphrase of the Archimedean Property of Archimedean Ordered Fields:</p> <p>If $\epsilon \gt 0$ and if $M \gt 0$, then $\exists$ an $n\in\mathbb{N}$ such that $n\epsilon\gt M$.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101328#101328 Answer by Jon Paprocki for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Jon Paprocki 2012-07-04T18:19:36Z 2012-07-04T18:19:36Z <blockquote> <p>I had to walk to school uphill both ways.</p> </blockquote> <p>I've found that this is one of the better ways to try to explain the idea behind non-commutative geometry to a layperson.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101333#101333 Answer by Mahmud for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Mahmud 2012-07-04T18:43:25Z 2012-07-04T21:19:25Z <blockquote> <p>This sentence is false.<br></p> </blockquote> <p>The famous <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liar_paradox" rel="nofollow">liar paradox</a>. As the wiki article explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>If "this sentence is false" is true, then the sentence is false, which would in turn mean that it is actually true, but this would mean that it is false, and so on ad infinitum.</p> <p>Similarly, if "this sentence is false" is false, then the sentence is true, which would in turn mean that it is actually false, but this would mean that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.</p> </blockquote> <p>Alternately, </p> <blockquote> <p>All Cretans are liars.</p> </blockquote> <p>or as pointed out in the comment below the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barber_paradox" rel="nofollow">Barber paradox</a>: </p> <blockquote> <p>The barber shaves only those men in town who do not shave themselves.Who shaves the barber?</p> </blockquote> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101358#101358 Answer by none for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics none 2012-07-05T00:41:54Z 2012-07-05T00:58:55Z <p>Two plus two is four. You can prove that two plus two is four. You can <em>prove</em> that you can prove that two plus two is four. And you can prove that you can prove that you can prove that two plus two is four, and so on.</p> <p>Two plus two is not five. You can prove that two plus two is not five. You can't prove that two plus two <em>is</em> five, or else math is a lot of bunk. But, if math is not a lot of bunk, you <em>can't prove</em> that you can't prove that two plus two is five.</p> <p>(Shortened from <a href="http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Math/Milnikel/boolos-godel.pdf" rel="nofollow">Gödel's Second Incompleteness Theorem Explained in Words of One Syllable</a> by George Boolos, <em>Mind</em>, Vol. 103, January 1994, pp. 1 - 3.)</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101367#101367 Answer by none for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics none 2012-07-05T06:14:52Z 2012-07-05T06:14:52Z <p>Surprised this one hasn't appeared yet:</p> <blockquote> <p>The flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can set a tornado in Texas.</p> </blockquote> <ul> <li><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect</a></li> </ul> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101379#101379 Answer by Robert Israel for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Robert Israel 2012-07-05T08:30:07Z 2012-07-05T08:30:07Z <blockquote> <p>Poisson arrivals see time averages. </p> </blockquote> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101391#101391 Answer by Jenda Vondra for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Jenda Vondra 2012-07-05T10:39:31Z 2012-07-05T10:39:31Z <p>It's a win win situation...the probability of a desirable event is 1</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/101434#101434 Answer by Pantelis Damianou for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Pantelis Damianou 2012-07-05T21:18:09Z 2012-07-05T21:18:09Z <p>An ancient Greek question: What is the difference between a mathematician and a policeman?</p> <p>A mathematician tries to square the circle. A policeman tries to circle the square. </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/104051#104051 Answer by Patricia Hersh for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Patricia Hersh 2012-08-05T20:46:57Z 2012-08-05T20:46:57Z <p>I like the phrase counting in two different ways'' -- which I learned in a math camp. If you're not sure what it means, I suggest the exercise of trying to prove that $2^n = \sum_{i=0}^n {n\choose i}$ by looking for a proof which could be aptly described by this phrase.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/104057#104057 Answer by K. Henriksen for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics K. Henriksen 2012-08-05T22:18:56Z 2012-08-05T22:18:56Z <blockquote> <p>Being compact is the next best thing to being finite. </p> </blockquote> <p>As seen for example by the fact that the (uniform) limit of a sequence of continuous real-valued functions on a compact space is continuous. Or the even more down to earth example: The extreme value theorem.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/104063#104063 Answer by Per Alexandersson for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Per Alexandersson 2012-08-06T00:17:13Z 2012-08-06T00:17:13Z <blockquote>Non-random is a special case of random.</blockquote> <p>When studying probability distributions, and start with the dirac delta function.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/105449#105449 Answer by none for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics none 2012-08-25T07:26:11Z 2012-08-25T07:26:11Z <p>Even quite irregularly shaped objects, such as tables and chairs, become approximately spherical if you wrap them in enough newspaper.</p> <p>(I think this is by J. H. Conway but I heard it through Bill Thurston, who we recently lost. RIP.)</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/105454#105454 Answer by Liviu Nicolaescu for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics Liviu Nicolaescu 2012-08-25T09:28:59Z 2012-08-25T09:28:59Z <p>GAGA the acronym for Serre's famous <em>Geometrie algebrique geometrie analytique</em>.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/3559/colloquial-catchy-statements-encoding-serious-mathematics/105542#105542 Answer by bezirsk for Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics bezirsk 2012-08-26T15:33:44Z 2012-08-26T15:33:44Z <blockquote> <p>Nothing contains everything.</p> </blockquote> <p>or</p> <blockquote> <p>There is no universe.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is how <a href="http://books.google.at/books?id=x6cZBQ9qtgoC&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;hl=de&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false" rel="nofollow">Halmos</a> (pp. 6-7) summarizes the answer of axiomatic set theory to Russell's paradox.</p>