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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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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
24
votes
2answers
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) ...
2
votes
1answer
397 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
58
votes
11answers
11k 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 is a non-integrable system.) In particular, is there a dichotomy between "integrable" ...
39
votes
10answers
5k 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.
33
votes
8answers
5k 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 ...
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 ...
47
votes
12answers
4k 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 ...
41
votes
12answers
4k 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 ...
28
votes
21answers
5k 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
641 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...