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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20
votes
4answers
1k views

When must it be sets rather than proper classes, or vice-versa, outside of foundational mathematics?

Every once in a blue moon it actually matters that some mathematical entity which might a priori only be a class is in fact a set. For clarification, here are some examples of what I do not ...
28
votes
3answers
2k views

What do theta functions have to do with quadratic reciprocity?

The theta function is the analytic function $\theta:U\to\mathbb{C}$ defined on the (open) right half-plane $U\subset\mathbb{C}$ by $\theta(\tau)=\sum_{n\in\mathbb{Z}}e^{-\pi n^2 \tau}$. It has the ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

The Riemann Hypothesis and the Langlands program

On page 263 of this book review appears the following: Given the centrality of L-functions to the Langlands program, nothing would seem more natural (than a presentation of elementary algebraic ...
16
votes
1answer
522 views

Monte Carlo integration

As probably many other people here, I learned integration, as an undergrad, from Rudin's books. I recently realized, however, that I don't quite use Lebesgue integration in my work, or at least I use ...
29
votes
3answers
1k views

“Softness” vs “rigidity” in Geometry

According to common wisdom, there are structures in Geometry that have a more "topological" flavor, others that are more "geometrical", and others that are halfway between. Usually, geometries${}^*$ ...
53
votes
7answers
4k views

How does “modern” number theory contribute to further understanding of $\mathbb{N}$?

I hope this question is appropriate for MO. It comes from a genuine desire to understand the big picture and ground my own studies "morally". I'm a graduate student with interest in number theory. I ...
5
votes
1answer
749 views

Clean introduction to toric varieties for an undergraduate audience

I will be giving a talk to a (primarily) undergraduate audience on certain relatively concrete computations with toric varieties and their blowups. The talk is short, about 20 mins. As I result I need ...
3
votes
1answer
447 views

What do orbital integrals have to do with reciprocity?

Hi, this is my first question (of many). I am blogging for the Fields Medal Symposium and would like to get into the mathematics involved with our program. In an attempt to sort through the articles ...
8
votes
3answers
823 views

What are Penrose Tilings, and how do they relate to Quasicrystals?

The question is in the title, but let me elaborate a little. Background Penrose Tilings are really pretty and satisfy some remarkable properties. For instance, I believe the following is true: even ...
19
votes
5answers
2k views

A toolbox for algebraic topology

This question has a very general part and a rather concrete part. General: When one wants to prove something in algebraic topology (actually in all parts of mathematics) one obviously needs some ...
12
votes
6answers
819 views

Proof by `universal receiver'

Anyone following the news knows about the major breakthoughs that have taken place recently in $3$-manifold topology. These have come via a route whose big-picture I find to be conceptually ...
13
votes
0answers
659 views

What is the appropriate setting for Cauchy's Integral Formula?

For a $C^1$ function $f:U\to\mathbb{C}$, where $D\subset U\subseteq \mathbb{C}$ with piecewise $C^1$ boundary $\partial D$, we have the following generalized Cauchy integral formula: $$ f(\zeta) = ...
10
votes
0answers
982 views

Status of the Leopoldt conjecture ? [closed]

In 2009 Mihailescu published a proof of the famous Leopoldt conjecture on the arxiv. Later on, in 2011, he published a 'lightweight' version that proves the conjecture for CM fields. Also compare ...
21
votes
2answers
2k views

Elevator pitch for the Virtual Fibering Theorem

There has been a great deal of excitement among topologists about the proof of the Virtual Haken Theorem, and in fact of the Virtual Fibering Theorem (for closed hyperbolic 3-manifolds, but I'm ...
7
votes
2answers
809 views

Explaining Mukai-Fourier transforms physically

A core concept in mathematics, engineering, and physics is the Fourier Transform (FT) and its many variants (Generalized Fourier Series, Green's Function, Pontryagin duality). The basic algorithm is ...
25
votes
1answer
822 views

Coefficients of Weil Cohomology Theories

A Weil Cohomology theory is a functor from the category of smooth projective varieties (over some fixed field $k$) to graded $K$-algebras (for some fixed field $K$) satisfying various axioms. For ...
16
votes
3answers
827 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 ...
3
votes
0answers
781 views

Which mathematical questions are objectively true or false? [closed]

Which parts of mathematics are objectively true or false like finite arithmetic and which are only true, false or undecidable relative to a particular axiom system such as Euclidean geometry? ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Duality of eta product identities: a new idea?

Looking at the collection of Eta Function Product Identities by Michael Somos, it seems like generally those identities come in pairs: let's call two eta product identities $\sum\limits_{i=1}^r ...
3
votes
0answers
197 views

Finite subgroups of the unimodular group

This is related to this MO question (and others as well). Hoping that this will not turn out to be too broad, I would like to know about the 'state of the art' of: 1) The problem of classifying ...
2
votes
1answer
427 views

Is there a well defined subset of the integers that cannot be defined as a property of a recursive process or Turing Machine?

Is there a well defined subset of the integers that cannot be defined as a property of a recursive process or Turing Machine? I have long been intrigued by the observation that much of mathematics ...
11
votes
2answers
469 views

Why are some q-analogues more canonical than others?

It is striking that some q-analogs of functions, operators, identities and especially whole theorems seem quite "canonical", e.g. the factorial and the q-Gamma function the basic hypergeometric ...
42
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the significance of non-commutative geometry in mathematics?

This is a question that has been winding around my head for a long time and I have not found a convincing answer. The title says everything, but I am going to enrich my question by little more ...
1
vote
2answers
858 views

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic [closed]

Undoubtedly, these terms play essential roles in (pure) mathematics. My problem is that I have feelings what they mean in different fields, such as, differential geometry (abstract manifolds vs. ...
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 ...
0
votes
4answers
737 views

What are other applications of difference equations in other branches of mathematics ?

What are some of interesting results that arise from using difference equations in number theory , Combinatorics or any other field ?
22
votes
11answers
1k views

Characterizing specific “concrete” mathematical objects by abstract general properties

In this note by Tom Leinster the Banach space $\mathrm{L}^1[0,1]$ is recovered by "abstract nonsense" as the initial object of a certain category of (decorated) Banach spaces. So a function space, ...
33
votes
0answers
4k views

Grothendieck's manuscript on topology

Edit: Infos on the current state by Lieven Le Bruyn: http://www.neverendingbooks.org/grothendiecks-gribouillis Edit: Just in case anyone still thinks that Grothendieck's unpublished manuscripts are ...
3
votes
0answers
208 views

ubiquitous modulicity?

On the one hand, as mentioned here, basically "everything" in algebraic geometry could be seen in the context of "moduli problems" - on the other hand, Grothendieck's few remarks on a possible "tame ...
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 $W$ ...
2
votes
1answer
417 views

Hilbert's 3rd problem,number theory, motives, cyclic homology,…

This talk by Jinhyun Park connects a lot of interesting themes, making me curious to read more about that. Do you know where?
24
votes
1answer
1k views

more on “Transalgebraic Theories” (a 19th century yoga)?

Among the talks at occasion of the Galois Bicentennial, one is about "Transalgebraic Theories". Unfortunately I found only this article describing that fascinating idea as " an extremely powerful ...
3
votes
3answers
435 views

Usefulness of symbolic devices

Each mathematician knows that good notation or symbolism – which seems to be irrelevant from a purely logical point of view – makes theorems more plausible and motivates results which would ...
15
votes
3answers
774 views

Thom's Principle: rich structures are more numerous in low dimension

Marcel Berger states Thom's Principle as: "rich structures are more numerous in low dimension, and poor structures are more numerous in high dimension." This is in Geometry II ...
23
votes
14answers
3k views

Interesting mathematical topics arising from Biology

I've heard that there's a relatively new field of science called Mathematical Biology. It will certainly apply well known and less known mathematical techniques to the understanding of some ...
38
votes
24answers
7k 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. ...
6
votes
1answer
876 views

How are mathematical objects defined from an ultrafinitist perspective?

I remember attending a lecture given by an ultrafinitist who denied that curves are a set of points, he would only say that any particular point may or not be on the curve. Similarly for algebraic or ...
12
votes
0answers
208 views

Is there a common framework for Tannaka and Gabriel-Ulmer reconstruction theorems?

Gabriel-Ulmer duality is a biequivalence between the 2-category of finite limit categories and the 2-category of locally finitely presentable categories. It allows for the reconstruction of a theory ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Did Joseph Doob prove that random sequences don't exist?

In the book "The Mathematical Experience" it says: "An infinite [binary] sequence $x_1, x_2, \ldots$ is called random in the sense of von Mises if every infinite sequence $x_{n_1}, x_{n_2}, ...
5
votes
2answers
573 views

What is the relation of the Kuznetsov-Bruggeman trace formula and the Selberg trace formula?

I have read that there is an elementary way to show that the above mentioned trace fromulas are equivalent in the sense, that each of them can be derived directly from the other. There should exist a ...
28
votes
3answers
2k views

On what kind of objects do the Galois groups act?

I am neither number theorist nor algebraic geometer. I am wondering whether Galois groups of number fields (say the absolute Galois group $Gal(\overline{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q})$) act on objects which ...
31
votes
1answer
1k views

Various flavours of infinitesimals

I'm not sure if this is a soft question, and whether it may be too broad or, on the contrary, too localized. Well, in Mathematics the concept of "infinitesimal" has been of extreme importance for ...
1
vote
0answers
486 views

What is an algebraic object? [closed]

The question is in the title. In order to give a bit more backround about the question, one knows that their are several different notions of an algebraic object. One approach is that of Lavere and ...
7
votes
1answer
741 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, ...
22
votes
6answers
3k views

Why the triangle inequality?

[Maybe this is asking to be closed; but I thought I'd risk it.] A metric satisfies the axioms: $d(x,y)=0$ if and only if $x=y$. $d(x,y) = d(y,x)$. $d(x,y) \leq d(x,z) + d(z,y)$. Similarly (and ...
7
votes
1answer
426 views

Categorical Invariants

I apologize in advance if this question seems too vague. In many topology courses, concepts like the fundamental group and homology groups are introduced as a means of distinguishing ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

Why are finiteness conditions important (and how to recognize them)?

I think everybody here has met lots of finiteness conditions, like those requiring a vector space to be finite dimensional, an abelian group to be finitely generated, a ring to be Noetherian, a ...
15
votes
8answers
4k views

The first eigenvalue of a graph - what does it reflect?

A big-picture question: what "physical properties" of a graph, and in particular of a bipartite graph, are encoded by its largest eigenvalue? If $U$ and $V$ are the partite sets of the graph, with the ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is the Arthur trace formula so powerful?

Considering the Arthur trace formula, why are the sort of convolution operators, whose "normalized traces" are given in geometric terms and spectral terms, actually able to distinguish all automorphic ...