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77
votes
26answers
30k views

What are the most misleading alternate definitions in taught mathematics?

I suppose this question can be interpreted in two ways. It is often the case that two or more equivalent (but not necessarily semantically equivalent) definitions of the same idea/object are used in ...
22
votes
3answers
2k views

When is a classification problem “wild”?

I hope someone can point me to a quick definition of the following terminology. I keep coming across wild and tame in the context of classification problems, often adorned with quotes, leading me to ...
66
votes
18answers
9k views

Can a mathematical definition be wrong?

This question originates from a bit of history. In the first paper on quantum Turing machines, the authors left a key uniformity condition out of their definition. Three mathematicians subsequently ...
17
votes
5answers
1k views

Definition of area

I am looking for an attractive, but rigorous definition of area; say in Euclidean plane. Probably there is no short definition. It is OK to make it even longer, but can it be built from useful parts ...
20
votes
4answers
814 views

What is a Kelley ring?

I've heard that in some book by someone named Kelley, perhaps an early edition of John L. Kelley's General Topology, the author gave a definition of a ring which turned out to be weaker than the usual ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Definition of forgetful functor

I was wondering if it is possible to make a formal definition of what it means for a functor to be forgetful. That is, using only the terminology of categories. I have seen so many examples of ...
19
votes
1answer
1k views

Surreal exponentiation — are the varying definitions equivalent? If not, is there agreement on which ones are better?

The surreal numbers are sometimes introduced as a place where crazy expressions like $(\omega^2+5\omega-13)^{1/3-2/\omega}+\pi$ (to use the nLab's example) make sense. The problem is, there seem to ...
13
votes
3answers
904 views

Is there an intrinsic definition of fractal (i.e. not embedded in euclidean space)?

Long ago, manifolds were embedded subsets of euclidean space defined by polynomials. Later, using the gluing of open sets, people realized they could define manifolds intrinsically. And in certain ...
2
votes
0answers
237 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
297 views

How to define a generating subset for algebra in a category?

As is well known, the definition of an monoid can be generalised to the notion of a monoid $A$ in a monoidal category $C$ (see the n-lab entry here). What I would like to know is if the notion of ...