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153
votes
62answers
79k views

Proofs without words

Can you give examples of proofs without words? In particular, can you give examples of proofs without words for non-trivial results? (One could ask if this is of interest to mathematicians, and I ...
100
votes
75answers
30k views

Best online mathematics videos?

I know of two good mathematics videos available online, namely: Sphere inside out (part I and part II) Moebius transformation revealed Do you know of any other good math videos? Share.
86
votes
53answers
18k views

What are your favorite instructional counterexamples?

Related: question #879, Most interesting mathematics mistake. But the intent of this question is more pedagogical. In many branches of mathematics, it seems to me that a good counterexample can be ...
39
votes
35answers
6k views

Examples of theorems with proofs that have dramatically improved over time

I am looking for examples of theorems that may have originally had a clunky, or rather technical, or in some way non-illuminating proof, but that eventually came to have a proof that people consider ...
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 ...
111
votes
67answers
33k views

Awfully sophisticated proof for simple facts [closed]

It is sometimes the case that one can produce proofs of simple facts that are of disproportionate sophistication which, however, do not involve any circularity. For example, (I think) I gave an ...
71
votes
82answers
57k views

Do good math jokes exist? [closed]

Have a good joke? Share. I know this is subjective, but the principle "should be of interest to mathematicians" trumps. (I hope.)
49
votes
23answers
20k 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 ...
68
votes
6answers
4k views

Counterexamples in algebraic topology?

In this thread Books you would like to read (if somebody would just write them...), I expressed my desire for a book with the title "(Counter)examples in Algebraic Topology". My reason for doing so ...
37
votes
28answers
17k views

Applications of the Chinese remainder theorem

As the title suggests I am interested in CRT applications. Wikipedia article on CRT lists some of the well known applications (e.g. used in the RSA algorithm, used to construct an elegant Gödel ...
38
votes
7answers
4k views

Riemannian surfaces with an explicit distance function?

I'm looking for explicit examples of Riemannian surfaces (two-dimensional Riemannian manifolds $(M,g)$) for which the distance function d(x,y) can be given explicitly in terms of local coordinates of ...
24
votes
12answers
4k views

Explicit computations using the Haar measure

This question is somewhat related to my previous one on Grassmanians. The few times I've encountered the Haar measure in the course of my mathematical education, it's always been used in a very ...
86
votes
59answers
15k views

Jokes in the sense of Littlewood: examples? [closed]

First, let me make it clear that I do not mean jokes of the "abelian grape" variety. I take my cue from the following passage in A Mathematician's Miscellany by J.E. Littlewood (Methuen 1953, p. 79): ...
112
votes
26answers
12k views

What are some reasonable-sounding statements that are independent of ZFC?

Every now and then, somebody will tell me about a question. When I start thinking about it, they say, "actually, it's undecidable in ZFC." For example, suppose A is an abelian group such that every ...
66
votes
41answers
15k views

What are the most attractive Turing undecidable problems in mathematics?

What are the most attractive Turing undecidable problems in mathematics? There are thousands of examples, so please post here only the most attractive, best examples. Some examples already appear on ...
40
votes
44answers
12k views

An example of a beautiful proof that would be accessible at the high school level?

The background of my question comes from an observation that what we teach in schools does not always reflect what we practice. Beauty is part of what drives mathematicians, but we rarely talk about ...
32
votes
19answers
4k views

Canonical examples of algebraic structures

Please list some examples of common examples of algebraic structures. I was thinking answers of the following form. "When I read about a [insert structure here], I immediately think of [example]." ...
32
votes
22answers
6k views

Examples of seemingly elementary problems that are hard to solve?

I'm looking for a list of problems such that a) any undergraduate student who took multivariable calculus and linear algebra can understand the statements, (Edit: the definition of understanding here ...
28
votes
17answers
5k views

Wonderful applications of the Vandermonde determinant

This semester I am assisting my mentor teaching a first-year undergraduate course on linear algebra in Peking University, China. And now we have come to the famous Vandermonde determinant, which has ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Failure of smoothing theory for topological 4-manifolds

Smoothing theory fails for topological 4-manifolds, in that a smooth structure on a topological 4-manifold $M$ is not equivalent to a vector bundle structure on the tangent microbundle of $M$. Is ...
16
votes
11answers
4k views

Examples of using physical intuition to solve math problems

For the purposes of this question let a "physical intuition" be an intuition that is derived from your everyday experience of physical reality. Your intuitions about how the spin of a ball affects ...
13
votes
9answers
1k views

What representative examples of modules should I keep in mind?

So here's my problem: I have no intuition for how a "generic" module over a commutative ring should behave. (I think I should never have been told "modules are like vector spaces.") The only ...
28
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there pairs of highly connected finite CW-complexes with the same homotopy groups?

Fix an integer n. Can you find two finite CW-complexes X and Y which * are both n connected, * are not homotopy equivalent, yet * $\pi_q X \approx \pi_q Y$ for all $q$. In Are there two ...
29
votes
3answers
2k views

Algebras over the little disks operad

Hello, The so-called "recognition principle" of Boardman-Vogt and May leaves me unsatisfied. My problem is the following: The "recognition principle" says that every "group-like" algebra over the ...
26
votes
3answers
2k views

Wanted: example of a non-algebraic singularity

Given a finitely generated $\def\CC{\mathbb C}\CC$-algebra $R$ and a $\CC$-point (maximal ideal) $p\in Spec(R)$, I define the singularity type of $p\in Spec(R)$ to be the isomorphism class of the ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Clearing misconceptions: Defining “is a model of ZFC” in ZFC

There is often a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between relativizing individual formulas to models and the expression of "is a model of" through coding the satisfaction relation with ...
16
votes
5answers
4k views

Counterexample for the Open Mapping Theorem

I would like to ask a counterexample for the classical theorem in functional analysis: the open mapping theorem in the case that $Y$ is Banach, but $X$ is not Banach to show that the completeness of X ...
10
votes
9answers
1k views

Examples of noncommutative analogs outside operator algebras?

Theo's question made me wonder if there are other "noncommutative analogs" outside of operator algebras. Some noncommutative analogs from operator algebras include: A $C^\ast$-algebra is a ...
22
votes
5answers
1k views

Explicit elements of $K((x))((y)) \setminus K((x,y))$

In an answer to the popular question on common false beliefs in mathematics Examples of common false beliefs in mathematics. I mentioned that many people conflate the two different kinds of formal ...
13
votes
12answers
2k views

Excellent uses of induction and recursion

Can you make an example of a great proof by induction or construction by recursion? Given that you already have your own idea of what "great" means, here it can also be taken to mean that the chosen ...
25
votes
7answers
2k views

Does any method of summing divergent series work on the harmonic series?

It's sort of folklore (as exemplified by this old post at The Everything Seminar) that none of the common techniques for summing divergent series work to give a meaningful value to the harmonic ...
8
votes
3answers
879 views

Concavity of $\det^{1/n}$ over $HPD_n$.

One of my beloved theorems in matrix analysis is the fact that the map $H\mapsto (\det H)^{1/n}$, defined over the convex cone $HPD_n$ of Hermitian positive definite matrices, is concave. This is ...
6
votes
1answer
545 views

“Vector bundle” with non-smoothly varying transition functions

I'm working my way through Lang's Fundamentals of Differential Geometry, and when he introduces vector bundles, he states that for finite dimensional bundles, the third axiom is redundant. I'm hoping ...
3
votes
9answers
667 views

Non-real constants

Constants are usually real numbers e.g. e, pi, gamma etc. Can you give examples of special constants that are not real? e.g. complex or p-adic constants. A real number in base10 can be viewed as the ...
13
votes
3answers
770 views

Can a module be an extension in two really different ways?

(Edit: I've realized that there was an error in my reasoning when I was convincing myself that these two formulations are equivalent. Hailong has given a beautiful affirmative answer to my first ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Example of a projective module which is not a direct sum of f.g. submodules?

This semester I am teaching a graduate course in commutative algebra, and I have been taking the occasion to try to look at the proofs of some the results in my basic source material (Matsumura, ...
2
votes
2answers
236 views

Is a compactly generated Hausdorff space functionally Hausdorff?

Question is the title. I suspect the answer is no, without some further conditions (clearly, normal is sufficient). Pointers to counterexamples would be appreciated, but not necessary.