What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? - MathOverflow most recent 30 from http://mathoverflow.net 2013-06-19T11:41:56Z http://mathoverflow.net/feeds/question/63321 http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/rdf http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? James Propp 2011-04-28T18:34:56Z 2012-07-25T15:13:56Z <p>The best example I can think of at the moment is Conway's surreal number system, which combines 2-adic behavior in-the-small with $\infty$-adic behavior in the large. The surreally simplest element of a subset of the positive (or negative) integers is the one closest to 0 with respect to the Archimedean norm, while the surreally simplest dyadic rational in a subinterval of (0,1) (or more generally $(n,n+1)$ for any integer $n$) is the one closest to 0 with respect to the 2-adic norm (that is, the one with the smallest denominator). </p> <p>This chimericity also comes up very concretely in the theory of Hackenbush strings: the value of a string is gotten by reading the first part of the string as the unary representation of an integer and the rest of the string as the binary representation of a number between 0 and 1 and adding the two. </p> <p>I'm having a hard time saying exactly what I mean by chimericity in general, but some non-examples may convey a better sense of what I don't mean by the term.</p> <p>A number system consisting of the positive reals and the negative integers would be chimeric, but since it doesn't arise naturally (as far as I know), it doesn't qualify.</p> <p>Likewise the continuous map from $\bf{C}$ to $\bf{C}$ that sends $x+iy$ to $x+i|y|$ is chimeric (one does not expect to see a holomorphic function and a conjugate-holomorphic function stitched together in this Frankenstein-like fashion), so this would qualify if it ever arose naturally, but I've never seen anything like it.</p> <p>Non-Euclidean geometries have different behavior in the large and in the small, but the two behaviors don't seem really incompatible to me (especially since it's possible to continuously transition between non-zero curvature and zero curvature geometries).</p> <p>One source of examples of chimeras could be physics, since any successful Theory Of Everything would have to look like general relativity in the large and quantum theory in the small, and this divide is notoriously difficult to bridge. But perhaps there are other mathematical chimeras with a purely mathematical genesis.</p> <p>See also my companion post <a href="http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63320/where-do-surreal-numbers-come-from-and-what-do-they-mean" rel="nofollow">http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63320/where-do-surreal-numbers-come-from-and-what-do-they-mean</a> .</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63328#63328 Answer by Gil Kalai for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Gil Kalai 2011-04-28T19:27:21Z 2011-04-28T19:27:21Z <p>I looked at the various MO example questions and did not indentify a clear chimera. A possible answer perhaps for helping make the term "mathematical chimera" cleared is the set of cardinal numbers as built from successor cardinals (which somehow resembles positive integers) and then 0 and the limit cardinals which look like a part of a different animal. Jim is it remotely close to what you asked? </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63332#63332 Answer by thei for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? thei 2011-04-28T20:28:32Z 2011-04-28T20:28:32Z <p>I propose $$f(x)=\begin{cases} e^{-\frac 1x} \text{ for } x> 0\\ 0 \text{ else.} \end{cases}$$ which can be used to construct concrete partitions of unity.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63338#63338 Answer by Jesko HÃ¼ttenhain for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Jesko HÃ¼ttenhain 2011-04-28T20:59:39Z 2011-04-28T20:59:39Z <p>The (supposed) complexity of computing <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanant" rel="nofollow">immanants</a> seems chimerical to me. Although the definition of the determinant $\sum_\sigma\mathop{\mathrm{sgn}}(\sigma)\prod_ia_{i,\sigma(i)}$ and permanent $\sum_\sigma\prod_ia_{i,\sigma(i)}$ of a matrix $A=(a_{ij})$ look that similar (also, both are polynomials in the entries of that matrix), the determinant <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaussian_elimination" rel="nofollow">can be computed efficiently</a> by any school kid while the permanent is <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0304-3975%2879%2990044-6" rel="nofollow">quite tough</a>, even when we allow the entries to be in $\{0,1\}$ only.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63343#63343 Answer by Ryan Reich for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Ryan Reich 2011-04-28T21:09:01Z 2011-04-28T21:09:01Z <p>I think p-adic fields themselves are somewhat chimeric. Although I know better, I can never fully avert the tendency to think of them as having characteristic p, rather than zero. Indeed, I just heard a number theorist refer to them as being of "mixed characteristic", meaning that although $\mathbb{Z}_p$ has characteristic zero, its residue field is $\mathbb{F}_p$ has characteristic p. I understand that this allows you to pass information from the Galois groups of finite fields (whose elements can be explicitly identified using Frobenius maps that only make sense in positive characteristic) to Galois groups of local fields, and thence to Galois groups of global fields.</p> <p>Other bizarre characteristic-jumping arguments include Ax's proof of the Ax&ndash;Grothendieck theorem (an injective polynomial map is bijective), which reduces to varieties over finite fields by a logical compactness argument. There is the BBD (Beilinson&ndash;Bernstein&ndash;Deligne, secretly plus Gabber) proof of the Decomposition Theorem, which used weights of l-adic sheaves on schemes over finite fields to prove a theorem true only on complex varieties. And I have heard that Mori did...something...using an argument of this sort, but perhaps someone else could tell me what it was?</p> <p>Basically, even though I know only a smattering of facts along these lines, I think you can find a whole zoo of finite-characteristic chimeras.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63352#63352 Answer by Michael Hardy for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Michael Hardy 2011-04-28T22:08:19Z 2011-04-28T22:08:19Z <p>"I'm having a hard time saying exactly what I mean by chimericity in general, but some non-examples may convey a better sense of what I don't mean by the term.</p> <p>"A number system consisting of the positive reals and the negative integers would be chimeric, but since it doesn't arise naturally (as far as I know), it doesn't qualify."</p> <p>That reminds me a little bit of the fact that a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishart_distribution" rel="nofollow">Wishart distribution</a> with $n$ degrees of freedom on $p\times p$ nonnegative-definite symmetric matrices exists precisely if $n \in \lbrace 0, \dots , p-1 \rbrace \cup (p-1,\infty)$. The sum of two $p\times p$ independent Wishart-distributed random matrices with respective degrees of freedom $n_1$ and $n_2$ has a Wishart distribution with $n_1+n_2$ degrees of freedom, so the operation of addition on this somewhat odd-looking set matters.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63354#63354 Answer by Dan Piponi for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Dan Piponi 2011-04-28T22:25:39Z 2011-04-28T23:15:21Z <p><em>The</em> chimeric physical system is surely the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterotic_string" rel="nofollow">heterotic string</a>. Two different physical systems that can be grafted together into one physical system because of some numerical accidents relating two different Lie groups. They are quite different systems. One is bosonic, the other is supersymmetric. They don't even live in the same dimensions.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/63357#63357 Answer by John Stillwell for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? John Stillwell 2011-04-28T23:35:18Z 2011-04-28T23:35:18Z <p>The most chimeric mathematical object I know of is the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moulton_plane" rel="nofollow">Moulton plane</a>. Its "points" are ordinary points of the plane $\mathbb{R}^2$, but its "lines" are a chimera, consisting of ordinary lines of non-negative slope, and <em>bent</em> lines of negative slope whose slope doubles as they cross the $y$-axis.</p> <p>This monster is the standard example of a projective plane in which the Desargues theorem does not hold.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/98156#98156 Answer by Terry Tao for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Terry Tao 2012-05-27T23:56:17Z 2012-05-27T23:56:17Z <p>The finite simple groups, at least at our current level of understanding, are quite chimeric, in that we have four different "heads" to this beast:</p> <ul> <li>The finite cyclic groups of prime order;</li> <li>The alternating groups;</li> <li>The finite simple groups of Lie type; and</li> <li>The sporadic groups.</li> </ul> <p>While one can partially unify pairs of these heads together (for instance, by viewing the alternating group as the special linear group over the "field of one element", whatever that means), I think it is fair to say that we don't yet have any real understanding of why the answer to such a basic mathematical classification problem comes in so many disjoint pieces.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/98161#98161 Answer by JSE for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? JSE 2012-05-28T02:21:05Z 2012-05-28T02:21:05Z <p>Some of Henri Darmon's work on Stark-Heegner points feels chimeric to me, involving, as it does, functions in two analytic variables where one variable is complex-analytic and the other is p-adic analytic.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/98180#98180 Answer by Markus Redeker for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Markus Redeker 2012-05-28T09:16:56Z 2012-05-28T09:16:56Z <p>In quantum mechanics, the set of possible energies for a system of two attracting particles, say an electron and a proton, consists of a discrete part (the bound states) and a continuous part (the unbound states).</p> <p>So this is quite a "natural" example. To make it more "mathematical" one can express it as an eigenvalue problem.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/103073#103073 Answer by Daniel Moskovich for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Daniel Moskovich 2012-07-25T06:34:26Z 2012-07-25T06:34:26Z <p>Geometrization reveals a chimeric nature to surfaces and to 3-manifolds:</p> <ol> <li>Closed surfaces are either S<sup>2</sup> (constant curvature 1, spherical geometry) or T<sup>2</sup> (constant curvature 0, Euclidean geometry), or hyperbolic, with constant curvature -1. These three types of closed surfaces are of different nature.</li> <li>Self-diffeomorphisms of compact surfaces are a $2\frac{1}{2}$-headed chimera (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nielsen%E2%80%93Thurston_classification" rel="nofollow">Nielsen-Thurston classification</a>). Either they are of finite order, or they are reducible (leaving invariant a multiset of disjoint curves), or they are pseudo-Anosov. Reducible self-diffeomorphisms can be restricted to sub-surfaces obtained by cutting the surface along invariant curves, so they don't strictly-speaking form a disjoint head. Iterating a pseudo-Anosov diffeomorphism gives a "chaotic dynamical system" (it has a dense orbit, no fixed points, and periodic points are dense), so it is "strongly mixing"; whereas a finite order diffeomorphism is "dead", hardly mixing at all, with a fixed point and sparse orbits.</li> <li> Geometric 3-manifolds are an 8-headed chimera. An oriented prime closed 3-manifold can be cut along tori, so that the interior of each of the resulting manifolds has a geometric structure with finite volume (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geometrization_conjecture" rel="nofollow">Geometrization Theorem</a>). There are <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geometrization_conjecture#The_eight_Thurston_geometries" rel="nofollow">eight possible geometries</a> these pieces might have, all quite different. </li> </ol> <p>Additionally, cubulation reveals 3-manifold fundamental groups to be a $2\frac{1}{2}$-headed chimera (not all pieces are in place yet). A reference is <a href="http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.0202" rel="nofollow">the survery paper by Aschenbrenner-Friedl-Wilton</a>. The fundamental group of a prime oriented closed 3-manifold is either finite, solvable (these are $1\frac{1}{2}$-heads) or they act virtually freely on a CAT(0) cube complex ("virtually special", or "quasiconvex subgroup of a right-angled Artin group" would be other ways to phrase it), which is like being "free". So either they're "strongly mixing", "virtually pretty-much free" (very strong negation of Property T), or they're "dead", Property T, which pretty-much means that they have to be finite, "hardly mixing at all". On the "live" side stand the non-positively curved 3-manifolds, while the non-non-positively curved 3-manifolds are on the side of the "dead". As far as I know, this dichotomy (di-and-a-half-chotomy?) is known to hold for all cases except prime oriented closed 3-manifolds with non-trivial JSJ decomposition with at least one hyperbolic component.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/103083#103083 Answer by Lennart Meier for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Lennart Meier 2012-07-25T09:41:08Z 2012-07-25T09:41:08Z <p>There is a technique in homotopy theory called 'Zabrodsky mixing'. One can construct, for example, a finite CW-complex $X$ with the following properties:</p> <ol> <li>$X$ is an $H$-space, i.e. it has a multiplication map $X\times X \to X$, which is associative and unital up to homotopy.</li> <li>The $2$-localization of $X$ is equivalent to the $2$-localization of the Lie group $Sp(2)$ (as an $H$-space).</li> <li>The $3$-localization of $X$ is equivalent to the $3$-localization of $S^3\times S^7$ (as an $H$-space).</li> </ol> <p>This is just one example of the general procedure of piecing well-known $H$-spaces at different primes together to get an exotic example of an $H$-space. This is described quite vividly on p. 79 of Adams's Infinite Loop Spaces. </p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/103097#103097 Answer by MTS for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? MTS 2012-07-25T12:41:24Z 2012-07-25T12:41:24Z <p>Index theory for subfactors. Given an inclusion of subfactors $N \subseteq M$, there is an index $[M:N]$, which a priori is just a positive real number. Vaughan Jones showed that the index is constrained in the values it can take: it can be any real number $\geq 4$, or it can be of the form $4\cos^2(\pi/n)$ for some $n \ge 3$.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/63321/what-are-some-examples-of-chimeras-in-mathematics/103104#103104 Answer by Lee Mosher for What are some examples of "chimeras" in mathematics? Lee Mosher 2012-07-25T13:52:39Z 2012-07-25T15:13:56Z <p>Outer automorphisms of free groups have a chimeric nature, somewhat like mapping classes of surfaces but with weirder pieces and stranger stiches. The pieces are strata of relative train track maps'', and are somewhat analogous to the subsurfaces of the Thurston decomposition of a mapping class, but the strata can spill over and interact with each other in ways that the subsurfaces cannot. </p> <p>For instance, you can have two different exponentially growing strata, which as in the surface situation correspond to two different exponenially stretched laminations each having a dense leaf, but one of those laminations contains the other as a sublamination.</p> <p>You can also have an exponentially growing stratum and a fixed stratum --- the latter analogous to a subsurface on which the mapping class is the identity --- but the lamination corresponding to the exponentially growing stratum scribbles all over the fixed stratum, filling it up with junk.</p> <p>And then there are the linearly and polynomially growing strata. A linear stratum spills over a fixed stratum, a quadratic stratum spills over a linear stratum, etc. And last but not least, there are the nonexponentially growing strata that spill over exponentially growing strata; I still can't decide whether they grow or they don't grow under iteration of the outer automorphism.</p>