**7**

votes

**1**answer

748 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, ...

**23**

votes

**6**answers

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

**1**answer

430 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 ...

**17**

votes

**5**answers

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

**8**answers

5k 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

**1**answer

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 ...

**6**

votes

**0**answers

405 views

### Does mathematical fecundity ever deviate from its applicability?

We are all familiar with Wigner's "unreasonable effectiveness
of mathematics" thesis (1), and of Hardy's opinion
that "the great bulk of higher mathematics is useless" (2).
I am wondering if there are ...

**55**

votes

**13**answers

10k views

### Logic in mathematics and philosophy

What are the relations between logic as an area of (modern) philosophy and mathematical logic.
The world "modern" refers to 20th century and later, and I am curious mainly about the second half of ...

**45**

votes

**14**answers

5k views

### What is the high-concept explanation on why real numbers are useful in number theory?

The utopian situation in mathematics would be that the statement and the proof of every result would live "in the same world", at the same level of mathematical complexity (in a broad sense), unless ...

**13**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Using higher-order Bring radicals to solve arbitrary polynomials

It is well known that there is no general formula for the solution of the quintic. Of course, what this really means is that there is no general formula that only involves addition, subtraction, ...

**28**

votes

**13**answers

3k views

### Surprising and Useful Physical Intuition for Mathematical Objects

I believe I.M. Gelfand said that when beginning to learn a new subject, one should learn it like a physicist.
In this spirit, what are some helpful and surprising physical intuitions accompanying ...

**16**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### What do whitehead towers have to do with physics?

First let me say something that I don't completely understand, since I do not know enough physics. If I say anything wrong, someone please tell me:
For the spinning particle, there is a sigma-model, ...

**9**

votes

**6**answers

916 views

### (Non?)-linearity of the consistency strength ordering in ZF

Much of the research taking place in set theory, is related to the classification of sentences according to their consistency strength relative to ZF. In order to be more specific, we say that for all ...

**15**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Why chain homotopy when there is no topology in the background?

Given two morphisms between chain complexes $f_\bullet,g_\bullet\colon\,C_\bullet\longrightarrow D_\bullet$, a chain homotopy between them is a sequence of maps $\psi_n\colon\,C_n\longrightarrow ...

**2**

votes

**1**answer

546 views

### Knowledge base about topology [closed]

We are studying topology. There are a lot of definitions and theorems. I wonder if there somewhere knowledge base about topology and reasoning system exists. So I expect some tool that systematizes ...

**7**

votes

**0**answers

281 views

### Canonical Time Evolution for Type $II_{1}$-Factors?

This question was spurred by the answer of Steve Huntsman to the MO question here. The Tomita-Takesaki modular automorphism group gives rise to a canonical time evolution on a type $III$ factor ...

**8**

votes

**0**answers

542 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 ...

**7**

votes

**1**answer

621 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 ...

**60**

votes

**33**answers

10k 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 ...

**10**

votes

**2**answers

2k 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

**5**answers

890 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. ...

**24**

votes

**10**answers

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 ...

**40**

votes

**14**answers

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 ...

**61**

votes

**52**answers

21k 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 ...

**9**

votes

**11**answers

3k views

### What advanced Area of Mathematics can be delved into with only basic Calculus and Linear Algebra

Hello Mathoverflow Community,
I would really appreciate some advice on this:
All I know is Basic Calculus and Basic Linear Algebra,
I want to start learning more advanced material on my own while ...

**20**

votes

**3**answers

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 ...

**57**

votes

**16**answers

6k 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 ...

**16**

votes

**6**answers

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 ...

**74**

votes

**16**answers

19k 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 ...

**16**

votes

**5**answers

1k 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 ...

**51**

votes

**11**answers

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" ...

**4**

votes

**4**answers

3k 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

**4**answers

931 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

**16**answers

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 ...

**11**

votes

**5**answers

3k 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

**0**answers

433 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 $F$ ...

**34**

votes

**9**answers

5k 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 ...

**76**

votes

**18**answers

7k 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

**2**answers

708 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

**3**answers

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 ...

**215**

votes

**22**answers

26k 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 ...

**18**

votes

**4**answers

3k 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

**1**answer

371 views

### Morava's “Motives and cell bundles”?

Hello, do you know more about, or some exposition of Morava's talk?

**7**

votes

**4**answers

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 ...

**9**

votes

**2**answers

3k 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

**3**answers

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

**1**answer

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 ...

**17**

votes

**7**answers

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 ...

**107**

votes

**3**answers

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

**5**answers

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.
...