Questions designed to generate a "big list" of certain results, examples, conjectures, etc. via many individual answers, each contributing one or a few instances. Such a question should typically be in Community Wiki mode (CW); after asking, please, flag for moderators attention requesting the ...

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364
votes
176answers
96k views

Examples of common false beliefs in mathematics.

The first thing to say is that this is not the same as the question about interesting mathematical mistakes. I am interested about the type of false beliefs that many intelligent people have while ...
174
votes
71answers
73k views

Video lectures of mathematics courses available online for free

It can be difficult to learn mathematics on your own from textbooks, and I often wish universities videotaped their mathematics courses and distributed them for free online. Fortunately, some ...
152
votes
61answers
79k views

Proofs without words

Can you give examples of proofs without words? In particular, can you give examples of proofs without words for non-trivial results? (One could ask if this is of interest to mathematicians, and I ...
138
votes
108answers
37k views

What are some examples of colorful language in serious mathematics papers? [closed]

The popular MO question "Famous mathematical quotes" has turned up many examples of witty, insightful, and humorous writing by mathematicians. Yet, with a few exceptions such as Weyl's "angel of ...
134
votes
79answers
21k views

Not especially famous, long-open problems which anyone can understand

Question: I'm asking for a big list of not especially famous, long open problems that anyone can understand. Community wiki, so one problem per answer, please. Motivation: I plan to use this list ...
131
votes
41answers
50k views

A single paper everyone should read? [closed]

Different people like different things in math, but sometimes you stand in awe before a beautiful and simple, but not universally known, result that you want to share with any of your colleagues. Do ...
130
votes
64answers
22k views

Proofs that require fundamentally new ways of thinking [closed]

I do not know exactly how to characterize the class of proofs that interests me, so let me give some examples and say why I would be interested in more. Perhaps what the examples have in common is ...
118
votes
31answers
14k views

What should be learned in a first serious schemes course?

I've just finished teaching a year-long "foundations of algebraic geometry" class. It was my third time teaching it, and my notes are gradually converging. I've enjoyed it for a number of reasons ...
111
votes
67answers
33k views

Awfully sophisticated proof for simple facts [closed]

It is sometimes the case that one can produce proofs of simple facts that are of disproportionate sophistication which, however, do not involve any circularity. For example, (I think) I gave an ...
111
votes
26answers
12k views

What are some reasonable-sounding statements that are independent of ZFC?

Every now and then, somebody will tell me about a question. When I start thinking about it, they say, "actually, it's undecidable in ZFC." For example, suppose A is an abelian group such that every ...
110
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 ...
110
votes
33answers
27k views

Widely accepted mathematical results that were later shown wrong?

I wonder if there are any examples in the history of mathematics of a mathematical proof that was initially reviewed and widely accepted as valid, only to be disproved a significant amount of time ...
110
votes
36answers
20k views

Demonstrating that rigour is important

Any pure mathematician will from time to time discuss, or think about, the question of why we care about proofs, or to put the question in a more precise form, why we seem to be so much happier with ...
102
votes
30answers
30k views

Real-world applications of mathematics, by arxiv subject area?

What are the most important applications outside of mathematics of each of the major fields of mathematics? For concreteness, let's divide up mathematics according to arxiv mathematics categories, ...
100
votes
61answers
18k 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 ...
97
votes
60answers
13k views

Suggestions for good notation

I occasionally come across a new piece of notation so good that it makes life easier by giving a better way to look at something. Some examples: Iverson introduced the notation [X] to mean 1 if X is ...
93
votes
72answers
30k views

Best online mathematics videos?

I know of two good mathematics videos available online, namely: Sphere inside out (part I and part II) Moebius transformation revealed Do you know of any other good math videos? Share.
89
votes
35answers
12k views

Books you would like to read (if somebody would just write them…)

I think that the title is self-explanatory but I'm thinking about mathematical subjects that have not received a full treatment in book form or if they have, they could benefit from a different ...
88
votes
67answers
27k views

Math puzzles for dinner [closed]

You're hanging out with a bunch of other mathematicians - you go out to dinner, you're on the train, you're at a department tea, et cetera. Someone says something like "A group of 100 people at a ...
86
votes
59answers
15k views

Jokes in the sense of Littlewood: examples? [closed]

First, let me make it clear that I do not mean jokes of the "abelian grape" variety. I take my cue from the following passage in A Mathematician's Miscellany by J.E. Littlewood (Methuen 1953, p. 79): ...
86
votes
53answers
18k views

What are your favorite instructional counterexamples?

Related: question #879, Most interesting mathematics mistake. But the intent of this question is more pedagogical. In many branches of mathematics, it seems to me that a good counterexample can be ...
82
votes
107answers
26k views

Most memorable titles [closed]

Apparently, for a large number of readers, the choice whether they select to read a paper or not is often strongly influenced by the title. I was wondering if the MO-users would be willing to share ...
82
votes
37answers
9k views

Generalizing a problem to make it easier

One of the many articles on the Tricki that was planned but has never been written was about making it easier to solve a problem by generalizing it (which initially seems paradoxical because if you ...
79
votes
90answers
10k views

What would you want to see at the Museum of Mathematics?

EDIT (30 Nov 2012): MoMath is opening in a couple of weeks, so this seems like it might be a good time for any last-minute additions to this question before I vote to close my own question as "no ...
78
votes
66answers
13k views

Most helpful math resources on the web

What are really helpful math resources out there on the web? Please don't only post a link but a short description of what it does and why it is helpful. Please only one resource per answer and let ...
75
votes
74answers
18k views

Examples of great mathematical writing

This question is basically from Ravi Vakil's web page, but modified for Math Overflow. How do I write mathematics well? Learning by example is more helpful than being told what to do, so let's try to ...
75
votes
24answers
11k views

Extremely messy proofs

Currently in my undergraduate courses I am being taught how to set up various machinery using slick, short proofs and then how to apply that machinery. What I am not being taught, largely, is what ...
74
votes
41answers
21k views

Ways to prove the fundamental theorem of algebra

This seems to be a favorite question everywhere, including Princeton quals. How many ways are there? Please give a new way in each answer, and if possible give reference. I start by giving two: ...
73
votes
97answers
49k views

Famous mathematical quotes [closed]

Some famous quotes often give interesting insights into the vision of mathematics that certain mathematicians have. Which ones are you particularly fond of? Standard community wiki rules apply: one ...
72
votes
32answers
42k views

Best Algebraic Geometry text book? (other than Hartshorne)

I think (almost) everyone agrees that Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry is still the best. Then what might be the 2nd best? It can be a book, preprint, online lecture note, webpage, etc. One suggestion ...
71
votes
82answers
57k views

Do good math jokes exist? [closed]

Have a good joke? Share. I know this is subjective, but the principle "should be of interest to mathematicians" trumps. (I hope.)
70
votes
10answers
7k views

Work of plenary speakers at ICM 2014

The next International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) will take place in 2014 in Seoul, Korea. The present question is meant to gather brief overviews of the work of the plenary speakers for the ICM ...
69
votes
18answers
10k views

Do you read the masters?

I often hear the advice, "Read the masters" (i.e., read old, classic texts by great mathematicians). But frankly, I have hardly ever followed it. What I am wondering is, is this a principle that ...
68
votes
36answers
13k views

The phenomena 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 ...
67
votes
27answers
11k views

Are there other nice math books close to the style of Tristan Needham?

Hello, I've been very positively impressed by Tristan Needham's book "Visual Complex Analysis", a very original and atypical mathematics book which is more oriented to helping intuition and insight ...
66
votes
41answers
15k views

What are the most attractive Turing undecidable problems in mathematics?

What are the most attractive Turing undecidable problems in mathematics? There are thousands of examples, so please post here only the most attractive, best examples. Some examples already appear on ...
66
votes
15answers
13k 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 ...
65
votes
60answers
6k views

Blackbox Theorems [closed]

By a blackbox theorem I mean a theorem that is often applied but whose proof is understood in detail by relatively few of those who use it. A prototypical example is the Classification of Finite ...
65
votes
21answers
5k views

Occurrences of (co)homology in other disciplines and/or nature

I am curious if the setup for (co)homology theory appears outside the realm of pure mathematics. The idea of a family of groups linked by a series of arrows such that the composition of consecutive ...
63
votes
10answers
6k 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 ...
61
votes
54answers
13k views

Free, high quality mathematical writing online? [closed]

I often use the internet to find resources for learning new mathematics and due to an explosion in online activity, there is always plenty to find. Many of these turn out to be somewhat unreadable ...
61
votes
21answers
6k views

Fields of mathematics that were dormant for a long time until someone revitalized them

I thought that the closed question here could be modified to a very interesting question (at least as far as big-list type questions go). Can people name examples of fields of mathematics that were ...
61
votes
15answers
5k views

Why do we care about L^p spaces besides p = 1, p = 2, and p = infinity?

I was helping a student study for a functional analysis exam and the question came up as to when, in practice, one needs to consider the Banach space $L^p$ for some value of $p$ other than the obvious ...
60
votes
49answers
15k views

Which popular games are the most mathematical?

I consider a game to be mathematical if there is interesting mathematics (to a mathematician) involved in the game's structure, optimal strategies, practical strategies, analysis of the game ...
58
votes
35answers
10k views

Theorems with unexpected conclusions [closed]

I am interested in theorems with unexpected conclusions. I don't mean an unintuitive result (like the existence of a space-filling curve), but rather a result whose conclusion seems disconnected from ...
58
votes
24answers
5k views

Modern Mathematical Achievements Accessible to Undergraduates

While there is tremendous progress happening in mathematics, most of it is just accessible to specialists. In many cases, the proofs of great results are both long and use difficult techniques. Even ...
58
votes
9answers
6k views

Analogues of P vs. NP in the history of mathematics

Recently I wrote a blog post entitled "The Scientific Case for P≠NP". The argument I tried to articulate there is that there seems to be an "invisible electric fence" separating the problems in P ...
57
votes
25answers
7k views

More open problems [closed]

Open Problem Garden and Wikipedia are good resources for more or less famous open problems. But many mathematicians will be happy with more specialized problems. They may want to find a research ...
57
votes
27answers
6k views

Good papers/books/essays about the thought process behind mathematical research

Papers in mathematics are generally written as if the major insights suddenly appeared, unbidden, in a notebook on the researcher's desk and then were fleshed out into the final paper. While this is ...
56
votes
52answers
17k 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 ...