**241**

votes

**21**answers

30k 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 differ, ...

**90**

votes

**12**answers

18k views

### What is an integrable system

What is an integrable system, and what is the significance of such systems? (Maybe it is easier to explain what a non-integrable system is.) In particular, is there a dichotomy between "integrable" ...

**110**

votes

**45**answers

20k views

### Examples 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 '...

**46**

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 ...

**144**

votes

**136**answers

31k 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 ...

**65**

votes

**10**answers

9k views

### Why do Bernoulli numbers arise everywhere?

I have seen Bernoulli numbers many times, and sometimes very surprisingly. They appear in my textbook on complex analysis, in algebraic topology, and of course, number theory. Things like the criteria ...

**82**

votes

**17**answers

23k 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 ...

**58**

votes

**12**answers

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 ...

**31**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### How to unify various reconstruction theorems (Gabriel-Rosenberg, Tannaka,Balmers)

What I am talking about are reconstruction theorems for commutative scheme and group from category. Let me elaborate a bit. (I am not an expert, if I made mistake, feel free to correct me)
...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

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${}^*$ ...

**42**

votes

**10**answers

3k views

### What advantage humans have over computers in mathematics?

Now that AlphaGo has just beaten Lee Sedol in Go and Deep Blue has beaten Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997, I wonder what advantage humans have over computers in mathematics?
More specifically, are ...

**20**

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 ...

**34**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Are there any “homotopical spaces”?

This is a somewhat vague question; I don't know how "soft" it is, and even if it makes sense.
[Edit: in the light of the comments, we can state my question in a formally precise way, that is: "Is ...

**149**

votes

**77**answers

25k 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 ...

**45**

votes

**24**answers

8k 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.
...

**79**

votes

**18**answers

8k 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 ...

**45**

votes

**8**answers

7k views

### Sheaf cohomology and injective resolutions

In defining sheaf cohomology (say in Hartshorne), a common approach seems to be defining the cohomology functors as derived functors. Is there any conceptual reason for injective resolution to come ...

**48**

votes

**11**answers

6k views

### What precisely Is “Categorification”?

(And what's it good for.)
Related MO questions (with some very nice answers): examples-of-categorification; can-we-categorify-the-equation $(1-t)(1+t+t^2+\dots)=1$?; categorification-request.

**67**

votes

**6**answers

9k 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 ...

**55**

votes

**13**answers

11k 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 ...

**51**

votes

**12**answers

5k views

### Is there a high-concept explanation for why characteristic 2 is special?

The structure of the multiplicative groups of Z/pZ or of Zp is the same for odd primes, but not for 2. Quadratic reciprocity has a uniform statement for odd primes, but an extra statement for 2. So ...

**59**

votes

**22**answers

9k 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 ...

**31**

votes

**5**answers

7k views

### Mathematics of path integral: state of the art

I was told that one of the most efficient tools (e.g. in terms of computations relevant to physics, but also in terms of guessing heuristically mathematical facts) that physicists use is the so called ...

**35**

votes

**33**answers

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. ...

**29**

votes

**21**answers

7k views

### What are some slogans that express mathematical tricks?

Many "tricks" that we use to solve mathematical problems don't correspond nicely to theorems or lemmas, or anything close to that rigorous. Instead they take the form of analogies, or general methods ...

**38**

votes

**0**answers

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 (...

**45**

votes

**7**answers

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 ...

**13**

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 ...

**14**

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, ...

**13**

votes

**2**answers

1k 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 ...

**21**

votes

**2**answers

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

**1**answer

788 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 ...

**9**

votes

**4**answers

1k 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 ...

**10**

votes

**6**answers

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 ...

**5**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Why we study Geometric invariant theory?

I am trying to learn Geometric invariant theory like it was introduced by Mumford. But I do not have a strong motivation and so I want to know the reason of studying Geometric invariant theory. I just ...

**2**

votes

**0**answers

245 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 $$H(\mathcal{A}...

**10**

votes

**1**answer

608 views

### Foundations of topology

I recently went to a talk of Oleg Viro where he expressed his dissatisfaction with current foundations of differential topology parallel to what has been discussed here.
Also some time ago I read ...

**8**

votes

**2**answers

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 ...

**6**

votes

**1**answer

270 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 ...

**3**

votes

**0**answers

566 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 ...