Questions designed to get an overview of a specific subject or body of results or to understand the relations among similar definitions, techniques or concepts appearing in different sub-fields of mathematics. While such questions by their very nature sometimes cannot be made very narrow and ...

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18
votes
6answers
1k views

Residual finiteness: why do we care?

Residually finite groups have been studied for a long time. However, I am struggling to work out why we care, or perhaps, why they continue to be of interest. Let me explain. Magnus, in his 1968 ...
2
votes
1answer
175 views

Statistical distance between discrete and continuous distributions

Are there any statistical distance functions that are capable of comparing a continuous and a discrete distribution? From reading this list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_distance the only ...
-3
votes
1answer
209 views

How many of Ramanujan's discoveries have had a practical application? [closed]

I was reading about the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who, before dying at the age of 32, independently compiled nearly 3900 results (this is from Wikipedia). So based on this he seems to ...
2
votes
1answer
947 views

Why Riemann Hypothesis so important [closed]

I am often hearing people emphasized how important the RH is,one of them said that it should lead to an efficient way of determining whether a given large number is prime,and the other said,RH would ...
2
votes
0answers
125 views

Interpretation of Shannon Entropy Application

Consider a collection of increasing positive integers $\{a_i\}_{i=1}^m$ and the distribution $p_i=\frac{a_i}{\sum_{i=1}^ma_i}$. Let entropy of $\mathcal{A}=\{a_i\}_{i=1}^m$ be given by ...
4
votes
2answers
656 views

What's so special about $1$-categories?

I have been pretty thoroughly convinced for some time now that, when thinking about mathematics, one really should be thinking 'categorically', that is, one should always be thinking of the morphisms ...
4
votes
2answers
278 views

Can one make a category concrete by “enlarging the universe”?

This is more or less a followup of this question. There, it was established that (it is well known that) the homotopy category of topological spaces is not concrete, in other words, there is no ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

The resolution of which conjecture/problem would advance Mathematics the most? [closed]

This is an impossibly broad question, and makes the unwarranted assumption that Mathematics is a uniform field. It might make more sense to ask the same question restricted to, say, Mathematical ...
-3
votes
1answer
128 views

Decidable theorem or result that is not weaker than Tarski's theorem

I am wondering what other decidable theorem or results that is not weaker or stronger than Tarski's theorem. Could any one give reference or a simple introduction about such result known in their ...
24
votes
1answer
1k views

Underlying idea for (automorphic) L-function?

Edit: So with a few more months of math under my belt, I recognize some of the issues with this question. I still hope for an answer, so let me say a few things. Within the Langlands philosophy, ...
19
votes
8answers
2k views

Examples of intuition from fields other than Physics to solve math problems

This is a chaser for the examples of using physical intuition to solve math problems question. Physical intuition seems to be used relatively frequently for solving math problems as well as stating ...
2
votes
2answers
383 views

Categories with binary relations as objects

For the category of functions, pairs of functions making commutative diagrams are the canonical morphisms $\alpha:f\rightarrow g$. For binary relations there is an alternative, to consider the ...
25
votes
9answers
1k views

Continuous relations?

What might it mean for a relation $R\subset X\times Y$ to be continuous? In topology, category theory or in analysis? Is it possible, canonical, useful? I have a vague idea of the possibility of ...
2
votes
1answer
423 views

Computer Science applications of Roth's Theorem [closed]

I have been reading about Additive Combinatorics and in particular Roth's theorem which states any positive upper density set has infinitely many 3-step arithmetic progressions. Let $A \subset ...
13
votes
0answers
185 views

What do tangles teach us about braids?

A braid is a smooth level-preserving embedding $f\colon\, \{1,2,\ldots,n\}\times[0,1]\hookrightarrow \mathbb{R}^2 \times [0,1]$ such that $f(k,0)=(k,0)$ and $f(k,1) \in \{1,2,\ldots,n\} \times ...
13
votes
1answer
388 views

Why are Witten-Reshetikhin-Turaev invariants expected to be integral?

A Witten-Reshetikhin-Turaev (WRT) Invariant $\tau_{M,L}^G(\xi)\in\mathbb{C}$ is an invariant of closed oriented 3-manifold $M$ containing a framed link $L$, where $G$ is a simple Lie group, and $\xi$ ...
6
votes
1answer
403 views

Differences in philosophy between Lie Groups and Differential Galois Theory

As far as I have heard,Sophus Lie's aim was to construct an analogue of galois theory for differential galois theory. I am familiar with lie group but not with differential galois theory. What is the ...
55
votes
9answers
5k views

How does one find out what's happening in contemporary mathematics research?

How does one find out what's happening in contemporary mathematics research? EDIT: I should have mentioned that I am looking for open access online sources. It so happens that I have been outside ...
23
votes
9answers
6k views

Why are polynomials so useful in mathematics?

This is perhaps unanswerable, or perhaps I am too algebraically ignorant to phrase it cogently, but: Is there some identifiable reason that polynomials over $\mathbb{C}$, $\mathbb{R}$, ...
7
votes
5answers
1k views

Advice on choosing an area of specialization

I'm not sure if this is an appropriate question for MO, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. I'm a second year graduate student, currently gearing up to construct a committee and syllabus for my ...
5
votes
0answers
73 views

Classifying two-faces of four-polytopes

Motivation: This question is related to my study of hyperbolic Coxeter polytopes. In general, if one put some restrictions on the type of their dihedral angles (say, all dihedral angles are equal to ...
6
votes
1answer
248 views

Under which constraints are there only finite numbers of irreducible eta product identities?

For the Dedekind eta function, defined as usual by $\eta(q) = q^{\frac1{24}} \prod\limits_{n=1}^{\infty} (1-q^{n})$, let for brevity $e_k:=\eta(q^k)$. An eta product identity (or eta identity for ...
12
votes
0answers
478 views

How come Cartan did not notice the close relationship between symmetric spaces and isoparametric hypersurfaces?

Elie Cartan made fundamental contributions to the theory of Lie groups and their geometrical applications. Among those, we can list the introduction of the remarkable family of Riemannian symmetric ...
4
votes
1answer
211 views

Surreal numbers, ultrapowers of $\Bbb R$, ordinal-valued functions and the slow-growing hierarchy

Philip Ehrlich's paper “The Absolute Arithmetic Continuum and the Unification of All Numbers Great and Small”, The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 18 (1) 2012, pp. 1-45. claims as a theorem that, in NBG, ...
3
votes
1answer
138 views

Toric ideal of slice of a polytope?

Given a collection $A:=\{a_1, \ldots ,a_n \}$ of different integer points in $\mathbb{N}^d$, which span an affine hyperplane when viewed in $\mathbb{R}^d$, one can define a toric ideal $I_A$ from a ...
4
votes
0answers
501 views

Differential Galois number theory

Following http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/635659/can-the-error-term-involved-in-the-pnt-be-expressed-in-a-galois-theoretic-framew?noredirect=1#comment1341143_635659, I vainly tried to find ...
6
votes
1answer
453 views

Getting the story of Dynkin and Satake diagrams straight

I've been trying to teach myself the theory of Lie groups. The sources I've been reading reference Lie algebras in the context of Dynkin and Satake diagrams, but not Lie groups (which I am more ...
-2
votes
2answers
680 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
210 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. ...
11
votes
1answer
213 views

Why do convex polytope options constrict with dimension, rather than expand?

There are an infinite number of regular polygons in the plane, five regular polyhedra, six regular polytopes in $\mathbb{R}^4$, and then three regular polytopes in every dimension $d > 4$. There ...
12
votes
2answers
803 views

What is the status of (universal) algebra in type theory?

With the recent interest in homotopy type theory as a foundation for mathematics, it seems natural to develop algebra within the framework of type theory. So far, I can't find much literature ...
24
votes
4answers
3k views

What is a cumulant really?

A cumulant is defined via the cumulant generating function $$ g(t)\stackrel{\tiny def}{=} \sum_{n=1}^\infty \kappa_n \frac{t^n}{n},$$ where $$ g(t)\stackrel{\tiny def}{=} \log E(e^{tX}). $$ Cumulants ...
2
votes
0answers
275 views

Categories of sheaves and Kan Extensions

This is quite a broad question regarding constructions of categories of sheaves in geometry. Let $\textbf{Sch}$ denote the category of schemes. Let $\textbf{SchAff}$ denote the full subcategory of ...
23
votes
3answers
2k views

Contemporary mathematical themes

The presence of fruitful mathematical themes suggests the unity of mathematics. What I mean by a mathematical theme here is a basic idea or guiding principle that motivates or directs the central ...
7
votes
1answer
413 views

Motives over the complex numbers versus mixed Hodge structures

Let $\mathsf{MM}(\mathbf C)$ be the hypothetical category of mixed motives over the complex numbers, and consider the realization functor $\Phi : \mathsf{MM}( \mathbf C) \to \mathsf{MHS}$ to integral ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Are overlaps among {algebraic geometry, arithmetic geometry, algebraic number theory} growing?

From a naive outsider's viewpoint, just watching the MO postings in those three fields scroll by, and hearing of breakthroughs in the news, it appears there might be increasing overlap among the ...
18
votes
2answers
997 views

At which level is it currently possible to write formal proofs?

I am wondering whether I should try to have some fun using proof systems. I have never used such a system, but I have some experiences in logic and programming. My question is: At which level of ...
0
votes
1answer
340 views

Generalization of join of simplicial complexes

The join of two abstract simplicial complexes $K$ and $L$, denoted $K\star L$ is defined as a simplicial complex on the base set $V(K)\dot{\cup} V(L)$ whose simplices are disjoint union of simplices ...
32
votes
2answers
1k views

Recent fundamental new directions in PDEs

My main interests are in modern geometry/topology, algebra and mathematical physics. I observe that there is a raising communication, language and social barrier between this community and the ...
9
votes
4answers
904 views

What is about J. v. Neumann's “Continuous geometry”?

I am curious about von Neumann's "Continuous geometry", but found no recent text or survey on it. Does anyone know the book and would be so nice to share their impression, and if/how the concept of ...
9
votes
2answers
924 views

Status of Beilinson conjectures?

(I hesitate to post that question here, but I received on answer on FB:) Does anyone know how the current status of work on them is? And how the possible generalizations etc. which one thinks ...
7
votes
2answers
471 views

Is there a deep reason for the fecundity of involutions?

You might have come across the book of involutions in your travels. A colleague of mine asked whether there is a natural global reason (versus ad-hoc trickery) for considering involutions in ...
15
votes
1answer
538 views

3D generalizations of permutations, RSK correspondence, contingency tables, etc.

I want to gather facts and questions related to 3D generalizations of permutations, RSK correspondence, contingency tables, etc. One reason I am interested in this is because it is potentially related ...
15
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
576 views

spectacular applications of functional analysis in resolutions of apparently unrelated problems

What are some of the spectacular applications of functional analysis to apparently unrelated problems.One that comes to my mind is Per Enflo's resolution of Hilbert's 5th problem.There are also ...
14
votes
1answer
483 views

Skeleton category of the category of skeleton categories?

A category is a skeleton if, roughly speaking, no two distinct objects within the category are isomorphic. To every category is associated a skeleton, and two categories are categorically "equivalent" ...
51
votes
11answers
3k views

Why is Set, and not Rel, so ubiquitous in mathematics?

The concept of relation in the history of mathematics, either consciously or not, has always been important: think of order relations or equivalence relations. Why was there the necessity of singling ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Algebraic number theory: building and simplifying

This is a somewhat subjective question, about the past, present and especially future of algebraic number theory. I'm not at all in this area, but I'd be interested in an answer. As we all know, ...