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79
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 ...
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 ...
32
votes
2answers
2k views

Category Theoretic Interpretation of Matroids?

Hello everyone! First time poster, long time lurker here. I have a really basic question that has been bugging me for sometime. Specifically, I'm not exactly sure what the 'correct' category ...
28
votes
11answers
6k views

What does the adjective “natural” actually mean?

Terms like "in the natural way" or "the natural X" are used frequently in mathematical writing. While it is certainly clear most of the time what is meant, on occasion, I have been confounded. The ...
27
votes
1answer
3k views

What is Serre's condition (S_n) for sheaves?

The Serre's condition $(S_n)$, especially $(S_2)$, has been mentioned in a few MO answers: see here and here for example. I am pretty sure I have seen it in other questions as well, but could not ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
14
votes
2answers
636 views

Is this a vertex algebroid?… What is vertex algebroid?

A couple of day ago, I was lamenting to a friend about the fact that I have no idea what vertex algebroids are. During our discussion, I came up with a guess of what a vertex algebroid might be. I'm ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

What are examples of theorems which were once “valid”, then became “invalid” as standard definitions shifted?

That is, results established by correct proofs within some framework, yet the manner in which their author or the general mathematical community at the time would describe these results would, in ...
13
votes
3answers
913 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
387 views

Definition of ind-schemes

What is the correct definition of an ind-scheme? I ask this because there are (at least) two definitions in the literature, and they really differ. Definition 1. An ind-scheme is a directed colimit ...
10
votes
1answer
780 views

What is the mathematical structure called if we replace commutative group by commutative monoid in the definition of linear space?

Could anyone tell me what the mathematical structure is called if we replace commutative group by commutative monoid in the definition of linear space? Also, are there any names for "commutative ...
10
votes
7answers
510 views

Does the notion of graphs with vertex multiplicity exist?

I need to use graphs where each vertex gets a natural number, $b(v)$, its multiplicity. These numbers indicate how many 'replications' of the vertex we have. It is actually a way to write in a ...
10
votes
3answers
703 views

What makes a distance?

In the answers to my previous question, I learned that there are different concepts of distance, that is of distance-like functions with the usual metric being only the most popular and important one. ...
9
votes
0answers
637 views

What are the relationship between various definitions for quasi coherent sheaves?

It seems that there are many definitions of quasi coherent sheaves(modules). There is a nice page on nLab quasi coherent sheaves My questions are: Are there any other definitions of quasi coherent ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Grothendieck Topologies versus Pretopologies

The wikipedia article(s) as well as the nlab article(s) about Grothendieck topologies and Grothendieck pretopologies are careful to differentiate the two very emphatically and to point out that ...
8
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
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 ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Who first introduced the functional definition of symmetry?

Who first introduced the definition of symmetry using functions explicitly? (That is, for instance, a symmetry of a subset $X$ of the plane is a function $F$ from the plane to the plane that preserves ...
7
votes
1answer
351 views

BRST cohomology definition

Is there written anywhere a full definition of BRST cohomology? All I have found so far is BRST cohomology in _______. As far as I can see, BRST cohomology is the ...
7
votes
1answer
305 views

Étale morphisms in SDG

On page 70 here, Kock defines a formally étale morphism $f:M\rightarrow N$ as one for which the following square is a pullback for each $d:\mathbf 1\rightarrow D$ $$\require{AMScd} \begin{CD} M^D @>...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

On similar concepts in mathematics whose similarity is a non-trivial fact.

Recently, while undertaking a study of commutative algebra, I learned three concepts: (i) a local ring, (ii) a regular local ring and (iii) a regular ring. At the end, I found myself asking this ...
6
votes
2answers
791 views

Unitary groups over number fields

When defining unitary groups over number fields, one usually takes $F$ to be a totally real number field, $E$ a CM quadratic extension of $F$, and $V$ a hermitian space attached to $E/F$. Then $U(V)$ ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

Locally constant functions with compact support = smooth ?

Hello, I have a trivial question, but I hope that you don't mind helping. I often get confused with basic definitions. Let F be a p-adic field. Then (from what I understand) $C_c^{\infty}(F)$ is the ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

Geometric picture of invariant differential of an elliptic curve

What is the geometric meaning of $\omega=dx/(2y+a_1x+a_3)$ for an elliptic curve? This question is an adjunct to MO Q1 on formal laws and L-series, which motivated Q2. Q1 (Silverman) and Darmon (pg. ...
6
votes
1answer
181 views

Definitions of Hilbert Bundles

I have some doubts regarding definitions and conventions on Hilbert Bundles. Some authors like Peter Kuchment (Floquet Theory for Partial Differential Equations) and Serge Lang (Differential and ...
6
votes
0answers
348 views

Competing notions of étaleness

I'm writing some notes to myself on algebraic geometry and I'm trying to get the most conceptual definitions. Having arrived at formally étale morphisms, I am pretty desperate. Here is a list of ...
5
votes
1answer
726 views

Why do mathematicians prefer one definition over the other when they both define the same concept?

Here is a basic, though very important, example: Hilbert takes as primary the notion of “congruence” (or “equal”) between segments. His first axiom of congruence “requires the possibility of ...
5
votes
2answers
182 views

Axiomatic approach to means

Recently I have been contemplating on a talk for high school children. One of my favorite topics in high school was the inequality of means. I had a great high school teacher who wrote some very nice ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What is a proper stack?

I have seen the use of the word "proper Deligne-Mumford stack". Now, it is clear to me what it means for a morphism f of stacks to be proper: as usual it should be representable, and every morphism ...
5
votes
1answer
235 views

Meaning of $g_d^r$ in algebraic geometry

As an editor I often encounter the symbol $g_d^r$ as a noun. I tried googling but I only get papers where the symbol is used without a definition. Can someone supply a reference to a definition? ...
5
votes
1answer
302 views

Canonical differential on Tate curve

I am starting studying the theory of (algebraic) modular forms, and I have some trouble in understanding completely the construction of the Tate curve. My problem is the following: as far as I know ...
5
votes
1answer
212 views

Definition of a normed ring

A normed ring "should" be a monoid object in the monoidal category of normed abelian groups. There are (at least) two choices of morphisms of normed groups, namely bounded or short homomorphisms, ...
5
votes
0answers
273 views

Why is Pic^0(C) of a curve C a variety?

Let $C$ be an abstract non-singular curve. I'm having a hard time finding a reference for why $\text{Pic}^0(C)$ is a variety. Any pointers towards a reference would be appreciated.
4
votes
3answers
939 views

Lattices: why require bilinear form to be integral?

This is a quite localized question, but I hope it won't be closed as unfit to MO. Well, a lattice $\Lambda$ in $\mathbb{R}^n$ is a discrete subgroup generated by a basis. Such a lattice gets a ...
4
votes
1answer
795 views

Is there a mathematical object called “ivy”?

As the title says, is there a mathematical object referred to as "ivy" or "ivy type" or similar? I have a type of graph where this name fits perfectly, but I don't want it to clash with something ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

What is “augmented algebra”?

Really sorry for this question, but googling for some time did not help me. I was trying to understand the meaning of the following phrase: Let B be an augmented algebra over a semi-simple algebra T. ...
4
votes
5answers
303 views

procedure-based (as opposed to definition-based) concepts

Euler's work on divergent series was guided by computational procedures, rather than any definition of the "value" of such a series. E.g., he was happy to have half a dozen procedures that indicated ...
4
votes
1answer
136 views

how to define the injectivity radius of manifolds with boundary?

For manifolds without boundary one defines the injectivity radius as the maximal radius where the exponential map is a diffeomorphism. One can then show that the injectivity radius is the maximum ...
4
votes
3answers
156 views

End points of continua

Whyburn (1942) defined an end point $x$ of a continuum $X$ to be any point having arbitrarily small neighborhoods each of whose boundaries contains a single point. Thus, he defines an end point ...
4
votes
2answers
208 views

On the definition of ‘smooth vectors’ in Rieffel's “Deformation Quantization for Actions of $ \mathbb{R}^{d} $”.

On the first page of Chapter 1 of Rieffel's Deformation Quantization for Actions of $ \mathbb{R}^{d} $, Rieffel defines a family of seminorms on the space $ A^{\infty} $ of smooth vectors of a Fréchet ...
4
votes
2answers
616 views

A scheme simple over Spec(A)?

What does it mean to say that a scheme $X$ is simple over $Spec(A)$ ? I stumbled on this terminology in a paper of S. Lubkin entitled "On a conjecture of Andre Weil".
4
votes
0answers
296 views

Q-construction and Gabriel-Zisman Localization

It might be a stupid question. When I took a look at the definition of Q-construction. It makes for an exact category $P$, one defines a new category $QP$ whose objects are the same as $P$ but ...
3
votes
5answers
364 views

Strings and “co-subsequences”

Let $S$ be a string over some alphabet $\Sigma$. It is well known that a substring of $S$ is commonly defined as a sequence of contiguous elements from $S$, while a subsequence of $S$ is a sequence ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

Set theory definition of addition, negative numbers, and subtraction? [closed]

Using the definition of natural numbers $0 = \emptyset$ and $S(n) = n \cup \lbrace n \rbrace$ where S is the successor function, what is the definition of addition on natural numbers? Concerning the ...
3
votes
1answer
298 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
315 views

Definition modifications without choice

What definitions or equivalencies between definitions for standard set theory objects (such as large cardinals) do not hold or do not carry through in the expected manner to the world without choice? ...
3
votes
0answers
181 views

What does “control of a deformation problem” mean?

Is the expression "control of a deformation problem' ever defined? There are of course many examples relating a dg-Lie or L-infty algebra to a deformation problem, and the phrase is evocative. Is it ...