-2
votes
2answers
618 views

Accidental, unplanned breakthroughs in Mathematics [closed]

In math/physics, or generally in science, there are many moments where the success and the triumph come from the accidental, unplanned attempts. Moreover, there are some cases that originally having ...
45
votes
18answers
7k views

Examples of major theorems with very hard proofs that have NOT dramatically improved over time

This question complement a previous MO question: Examples of theorems with proofs that have dramatically improved over time. I am looking for a list of major theorems in mathematics whose proofs are ...
0
votes
2answers
174 views

Intuition about covariant derivative/connections on real and complex manifolds

I was hoping to gain more intuition about the similarities and differences between the covariant derivative (of any connection, not necessarily the Levi Civita one if it exists) on real and complex ...
33
votes
33answers
4k views

Structures that turn out to exhibit a symmetry even though their definition doesn't

Sometimes (often?) a structure depending on several parameters turns out to be symmetric w.r.t. interchanging two of the parameters, even though the definition gives a priori no clue of that symmetry. ...
15
votes
3answers
959 views

Research level applications of “row rank = column rank”?

No less an authority than Gilbert Strang frames "row rank equals column rank" (and a couple of other facts) as "The Fundamental Theorem of Linear Algebra." I'd simply like to assemble (for teaching ...
16
votes
3answers
792 views

Proofs that inspire and teach

I was just listening to the show "A Splendid Table" (which I'd recommend, if you're interested in food) in which they were discussing how to spot a good recipe: one which you can follow successfully ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

An undergraduate's guide to the foundational theorems of logic [closed]

How would you explain one of these theorems in the foundations of mathematics to a fellow colleague outside the field of logic (or rather to an undergraduate mathematics student) handwaving over the ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

When are technical assumptions critical? [closed]

Apart from their technical statement and proof, a usual presentation of theorems is by leading up to them with a definite motivation or intuition, for example putting the results in the wider context ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

What information is contained in the Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials?

The Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials contain all kinds of representation theoretic (and other kinds of) informations. For example the character of a simple module over a Lie algebra with Weyl group $W$ ...
38
votes
24answers
6k views

The concept of Duality

I have been thinking for sometime about asking this question, but because I did not want to have two "big-list" questions open at the same time, I did not ask this one. Now its time has come. ...
7
votes
1answer
707 views

What makes a theorem 'good'? [closed]

I have been pondering the issue of what makes a theorem noteworthy. There are many famous examples of 'outstanding' theorems, such as Roth's theorem in Diophantine approximation, Szemeredi's Theorem, ...
43
votes
29answers
9k views

What notions are used but not clearly defined in modern mathematics?

"Everyone knows what a curve is, until he has studied enough mathematics to become confused through the countless number of possible exceptions." Felix Klein What notions are used but not ...
58
votes
52answers
18k views

Theorems that are 'obvious' but hard to prove

There are several well-known mathematical statements that are 'obvious' but false (such as the negation of the Banach--Tarski theorem). There are plenty more that are 'obvious' and true. One would ...
49
votes
13answers
4k views

What makes four dimensions special?

Do you know properties which distinguish four-dimensional spaces among the others? What makes four-dimensional topological manifolds special? What makes four-dimensional differentiable manifolds ...
69
votes
16answers
15k views

What recent discoveries have amateur mathematicians made?

E.T. Bell called Fermat the Prince of Amateurs. One hundred years ago Ramanujan amazed the mathematical world. In between were many important amateurs and mathematicians off the beaten path, but what ...
12
votes
4answers
998 views

How and how much do the notations and diagrams influence our understanding of mathematical concepts?

How and how much do the notations and diagrams influence our understanding of mathematical concepts? This question was stimulated by the MathOverflow questions Thinking and Explaining and ...
5
votes
4answers
863 views

Hecke-algebras in your field of mathematics

(How) do Hecke-algebras arise naturally in your field of mathematics and why are they important? How would you define them and how do you think about them? e.g. generators and relations, functions ...
12
votes
16answers
1k views

Generalized notions of solutions in various areas of mathematics

In many areas of mathematics (PDE, Algebra, combinatorics, geometry) when we have difficulty in coming with a solution to a problem we consider various notions of "generalized solutions". (There are ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Brownian motion, martingales, Markov Chains - Rosetta Stone

What are the most fundamental/useful/interesting ways in which the concepts of Brownian motion, martingales and markov chains are related? I'm a graduate student doing a crash course in ...
30
votes
9answers
4k views

Collection of equivalent forms of Riemann Hypothesis

This forum brings together a broad enough base of mathematicians to collect a "big list" of equivalent forms of the Riemann Hypothesis...just for fun. Also, perhaps, this collection could include ...
5
votes
2answers
680 views

Number of ways to construct mathematical objects

This question stems from this other one mentioning 7 ways of constructing smooth manifolds. I quote: At the 2010 Clay Research Conference, Gromov explained that we know of only 7 different methods ...
22
votes
3answers
2k views

Online math history lectures

This question is somewhat similar to this: Best online mathematics videos? I'm using the word "history" loosely here. What I'm looking for are those lectures that put various mathematical ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

Linear/Non-linear sigma model

This is slightly an open-ended invitation to discuss references and reasons for excitement about the linear and non-linear sigma model. I gauge from some other interactions that it has considerable ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Graphical representation of mathematical structures (in the spirit of unified modeling language)

In software engineering the unified modeling language ("UML") is a well established technique for providing overview of complex systems and an efficient means of communicating about them. There are ...
16
votes
7answers
4k views

What is Realistic Mathematics?

This post is partially about opinions and partially about more precise mathematical questions. Most of this post is not as formal as a precise mathematical question. However, I hope that most readers ...
64
votes
10answers
7k views

Why are modular forms interesting?

Well, I'm aware that this question may seem very naive to the several experts on this topic that populate this site: feel free to add the "soft question" tag if you want... So, knowing nothing about ...
26
votes
5answers
5k views

Doing geometry using Feynman Path Integral?

I have often heard in the folk-lore that Feynman Path Integral can be used to compute geometric invariants of a space. Coming from a background of studying Quantum Field Theory from the books like ...
15
votes
12answers
2k views

What are some fundamental “sources” for the appearance of pi in mathematics?

I thought it might be fun to ask this question as a way of celebrating Pi Day. One way in which people popularize pi is that they say that even though it's defined in terms of properties of a circle, ...
80
votes
37answers
14k views

Examples of eventual counterexamples

Define an "eventual counterexample" to be $P(a) = T $ for $a < n$ $P(n) = F$ $n$ is sufficiently large for $P(n) = T\ \ \forall n \in \mathbb{N}$ to be a 'reasonable' conjecture to make. where ...
100
votes
61answers
19k views

Your favorite surprising connections in Mathematics

There are certain things in mathematics that have caused me a pleasant surprise -- when some part of mathematics is brought to bear in a fundamental way on another, where the connection between the ...
6
votes
11answers
2k views

Various concepts of “closure” or “completion” in mathematics

Out of idle curiosity, I'm wondering about all the various idempotent constructions we have in mathematics (they seem to be generally referred to as a "closure" or "completion"), and how some of them ...
53
votes
33answers
8k views

Experimental Mathematics

I would like to ask about examples where experimentation by computers have led to major mathematical advances. Motivation I am aware about a few such cases and I think it will be useful to gather ...
29
votes
21answers
6k views

What are some slogans that express mathematical tricks?

Many "tricks" that we use to solve mathematical problems don't correspond nicely to theorems or lemmas, or anything close to that rigorous. Instead they take the form of analogies, or general methods ...
13
votes
27answers
2k views

Justifying a theory by a seemingly unrelated example

Here is a topic in the vein of Describe a topic in one sentence and Fundamental examples : imagine that you are trying to explain and justify a mathematical theory T to a skeptical mathematician ...
112
votes
130answers
26k views

Fundamental Examples

It is not unusual that a single example or a very few shape an entire mathematical discipline. Can you give examples for such examples? (One example, or few, per post, please) I'd love to learn about ...
42
votes
50answers
10k views

Describe a topic in one sentence. [closed]

When you study a topic for the first time, it can be difficult to pick up the motivations and to understand where everything is going. Once you have some experience, however, you get that good ...