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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6
votes
0answers
467 views

Counting Lattice Points in Real Polytopes

Suppose one did have an exact formula for the number of $\mathbb{Z}^n$-lattice points intersecting an arbitrary dilate of a (not necessarily rational) finite, closed and convex $n$-polytope. As a ...
6
votes
1answer
587 views

Analogue to Serre spectral sequence for cofiber sequences and homotopy

(This is a follow-up question to this one). As it is nicely outlined in an answer to this question, homotopy groups behave well with respect to (Serre)-fibrations and (co)homology groups behave well ...
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 ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Why does homotopy behave well with respect to fibrations and homology with respect to cofibrations?

(I apologize that this is a vague question). I seems to me somehow that homotopy groups behave well with respect to (Serre)-fibrations. For example you get a long exact sequence of homotopy groups ...
7
votes
5answers
778 views

what can be said about the choice of a prior in Bayesian statistics?

When reading about the Bayesian approach to statistics, priors are an important component of the whole methodology. Yet, it seems like priors are chosen without any specific theoretical motivation. ...
25
votes
10answers
2k views

Are infinite dimensional constructions needed to prove finite dimensional results?

Infinite dimensional constructions, such as spaces of diffeomorphisms, spectra, spaces of paths, and spaces of connections, appear all over topology. I rather like them, because they sometimes help me ...
41
votes
14answers
5k views

Does any research mathematics involve solving functional equations?

This is a somewhat frivolous question, so I won't mind if it gets closed. One of the categories of Olympiad-style problems (e.g. at the IMO) is solving various functional equations, such as those ...
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 ...
20
votes
3answers
2k views

Narratives in Modular Curves

I've tried several times to read up on modular curves, and I've despaired every time. It seems that there are several competing narratives, that all get enfused and conspire to befuddle me. There are ...
49
votes
13answers
5k 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 ...
14
votes
6answers
3k views

How should one think about sheafification and the difference between a sheaf and a presheaf

The first time I got in touch with the abstract notion of a sheaf on a topological space $X$, I thought of it as something which assigns to an open set $U$ of $X$ something like the ring of continuous ...
69
votes
16answers
16k 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 ...
49
votes
11answers
4k views

Why certain diophantine equations are interesting (and others are not) ?

It is quite clear why certain differential equations, among the jungle of possible diff equations that is possible to conceive, are studied: some come from physical problems, or from "spontaneous" ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do we want to have orthogonal bases in decompositions?

In the decompositions I encountered so far, we all had orthogonal set of bases. For example in Singular Value Decomposition, we had orthogonal singular right and left vectors, in [discrete] cosine ...
5
votes
4answers
865 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 ...
3
votes
0answers
402 views

Quantized Calculus, the Hilbert Transform and the Upper Half-Plane

Given a *-algebra $\mathcal{A}$ over $\mathbb{C}$, a Fredholm module is a *-representation $\pi$ of $\mathcal{A}$ as operators on a Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$ along with a self-adjoint operator $F$ ...
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 ...
71
votes
18answers
6k views

How do you decide whether a question in abstract algebra is worth studying?

Dear MO-community, I am not sure how mature my view on this is and I might say some things that are controversial. I welcome contradicting views. In any case, I find it important to clarify this in my ...
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 ...
196
votes
22answers
22k views

Thinking and Explaining

How big a gap is there between how you think about mathematics and what you say to others? Do you say what you're thinking? Please give either personal examples of how your thoughts and words ...
12
votes
4answers
2k views

Integrals from a non-analytic point of view

I've mentioned before that I'm using this forum to expand my knowledge on things I know very little about. I've learnt integrals like everyone else: there is the Riemann integral, then the Lebesgue ...
3
votes
1answer
367 views

Morava's “Motives and cell bundles”?

Hello, do you know more about, or some exposition of Morava's talk?
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Applications of Math: Theory vs. Practice

I have a problem: I learned about a lot of the applications of mathematics from academics. Neither they nor I have had much contact with the "real world" to go and see for ourselves how mathematics ...
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 ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

P not eq. NP news?: [closed]

"Vinay Deolalikar. P is not equal to NP. 6th August, 2010 (66 pages 10pt, 102 pages 12pt). Manuscript sent on 6th August to several leading researchers in various areas. Confirmations began arriving ...
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 ...
103
votes
3answers
5k views

Analytic tools in algebraic geometry

This is not a very precise question, but I hope it will get some good answers. As someone with a background in smooth manifold theory, I have experienced algebraic geometry as a beautiful but foreign ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

The unprecedented success of the “intersection” operator

You might think that the title is an overstatement of a well-known fact but it is the best title I can come up with for the wonders the intersection operator does in some fields of math. ...
22
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there a common genesis for ADE classifications?

Recall that a certain type of object admits an ADE classification if there is a notion of equivalence relative to which equivalence classes of objects of the given type can be placed in one-to-one ...
8
votes
6answers
1k views

Is the dual notion of a presheaf useful?

It seems that there is a common theme in mathematics where, if we want to find out about a category C, then we look at $\hat{C}$ (the category of contravariant functors from $C$ to $Set$). There are ...
0
votes
3answers
987 views

Intuitions/connections/examples for “eigen-*”

There are many concepts in mathematics that begin with the German word "eigen": eigenvector, eigenvalue, eigenspace, eigenstate, eigenfunction, eigensystem etc. (to name just the most important (?) ...
11
votes
0answers
1k views

Idea of presheaf cohomology vs. sheaf cohomology

Let $X$ be a topological space and $U$ an open cover of $X$. In this thread Angelo explained beautifully how presheaf cohomology (Cech cohomology) relates to sheaf cohomology: The zeroth Cech ...
15
votes
4answers
4k views

Intuition and/or visualisation of Ito integral/Ito's lemma

Riemann-sums can e.g. be very intuitively visualized by rectangles that approximate the area under the curve. See e.g. Wikipedia:Riemann sum The Ito integral has due to the unbounded total variation ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Defining variable, symbol, indeterminate and parameter

Are there precise definitions for what a variable, a symbol, a name, an indeterminate, a meta-variable, and a parameter are? In informal mathematics, they are used in a variety of ways, and often in ...
35
votes
5answers
3k views

What's wrong with the surreals?

Of all the constructions of the reals, the construction of the surreals seems the most elegant to me. It seems to immediately capture the total ordering and precision of Dedekind cuts at a ...
22
votes
8answers
2k views

Intuitive and/or philosophical explanation for set theory paradoxes

Every student of set theory knows that the early axiomatization of the theory had to deal with spectacular paradoxes such as Russel's, Burali-Forti's etc. This is why the (self-contradictory) ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

Geometric interpretation of the fundamental groupoid

Motivation The common functors from topological spaces to other categories have geometric interpretations. For example, the fundamental group is how loops behave in the space, and higher homotopy ...
17
votes
8answers
4k views

To what extent is it true that “number theory = mathematics”? [closed]

In a thought-provoking answer to this MO question, Kevin Buzzard and several commentators have described a multitude of ways in which number theory is related to other parts of mathematics. It seems ...
66
votes
24answers
27k views

Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking

I once heard a joke (not a great one I'll admit...) about higher dimensional thinking that went as follows- An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are discussing how to visualise four ...
10
votes
1answer
900 views

A Sketch of “Esquisse d'un Programme”

I'm refering, of course, to Grothendieck's ambitious program available fully here: http://www.math.jussieu.fr/~leila/grothendieckcircle/EsquisseFr.pdf The text is, as described in its title, a ...
11
votes
2answers
457 views

What do you use categorical glueing/sconing/Freyd covers for?

In the theory of programming languages and structural proof theory, one of the handiest techniques we have available is a method called "logical relations", in which you can prove properties of ...
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 ...
8
votes
0answers
406 views

What is the origin of the formula for the Lie derivative along a Killing vector?

Background Let $(M,g)$ be an $n$-dimensioal riemannian manifold. A vector field $X$ on $M$ is said to be a Killing vector if the flow it generates is an isometry; that is, it preserves the metric ...
33
votes
13answers
2k views

Equality vs. isomorphism vs. specific isomorphism

This question prompted a reformulation: What is a really good example of a situation where keeping track of isomorphisms leads to tangible benefit? I believe this to be a serious question because ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

Big picture concerning Ito integral, Stratonovich integral and standard results in probability theory

I am confused and don't get the big picture concerning the connection between Ito integral Stratonovich integral Standard results in probability theory concerning skewed distributions. Example: ...