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
1answer
126 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 ...
46
votes
12answers
8k 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
4k views

Is the ABC conjecture known to imply the Riemann hypothesis?

I once heard from a graduate student that the ABC conjecture implies the Riemann hypothesis. I can't find a reference for this, but given the department the student is from I tend to believe he might ...
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 ...
31
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. ...
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 ...
15
votes
12answers
2k views

What are some fundamental “sources” for the appearance of pi in mathematics?

I thought it might be fun to ask this question as a way of celebrating Pi Day. One way in which people popularize pi is that they say that even though it's defined in terms of properties of a circle, ...
5
votes
0answers
63 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 ...
9
votes
0answers
309 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 ...
31
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 ...
2
votes
1answer
532 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 ...
186
votes
21answers
21k 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
124 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
117 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 ...
18
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 ...
3
votes
0answers
313 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
2answers
663 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
358 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 ...
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 ...
-3
votes
2answers
551 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 ...
12
votes
6answers
797 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
146 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
192 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
674 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
11
votes
2answers
640 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 ...
48
votes
16answers
7k views

Why is it a good idea to study a ring by studying its modules?

This is related to another question of mine. Suppose you met someone who was well-acquainted with the basic properties of rings, but who had never heard of a module. You tell him that modules ...
21
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
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" ...
36
votes
22answers
5k views

What's a groupoid? What's a good example of a groupoid?

Or more specifically, why do people get so excited about them? And what's your favorite easy example of one, which illustrates why I should care (and is not a group)?
102
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
33
votes
2answers
4k views

current status of crystalline cohomology?

The great references given on Ilya's question make me wonder about the current status of the many conjectures and open questions in Illusie's survey from 1994 on crystalline cohomology. Obviously ...
40
votes
14answers
4k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
420 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 ...
0
votes
4answers
692 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 ?
54
votes
6answers
7k views

How to find ICM talks?

I am very interested in reading some and skimming through the list of invited talks at the International Congress of Mathematicians. Since the proceedings contain talks supposedly by top experts in ...
62
votes
24answers
26k 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
219 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
6
votes
1answer
304 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 ...
32
votes
6answers
4k views

The 'real' use of Quantum Algebra, Non-commutative Geometry, Representation Theory, and Algebraic Geometry to Physics

In this question, Orbicular made the following comment to Feb7 and my own answers; Please keep in mind that - even though it is stated very often - noncommutative geometry does not give "real" ...
28
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
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 ...
8
votes
3answers
321 views

How does one identify properties of objects with good “inheritance”?

When you are dealing with a very general object like a topological space or a ring, usually you impose an additional condition (such as compact Hausdorff or Noetherian) with the property that the ...
10
votes
1answer
787 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 ...
35
votes
10answers
2k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
797 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
3answers
943 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 (?) ...