Deprecated; please use a more specific tag.

**72**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Light rays bouncing in twisted tubes

Imagine a smooth curve $c$ sweeping out a unit-radius disk that is
orthogonal to the curve at every point.
Call the result a tube.
I want to restrict the radius of curvature of $c$ to be at most 1.
I ...

**57**

votes

**2**answers

4k views

**54**

votes

**3**answers

4k views

### Is the sphere the only surface all of whose projections are circles? Or: Can we deduce a spherical Earth by observing that its shadows on the Moon are always circular?

Several ancient arguments suggest a curved Earth, such as
the observation that ships disappear mast-last over the
horizon, and
Eratosthenes'
surprisingly accurate calculation of the size of the
Earth
...

**47**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Tying knots with reflecting lightrays

Let a lightray bounce around inside a cube whose faces
are (internal) mirrors.
If its slopes are rational, it will eventually form a cycle.
For example, starting with a point $p_0$ in the interior
of ...

**43**

votes

**8**answers

6k views

### Fair but irregular polyhedral dice

I am interested in determining a collection of geometric conditions that will guarantee that a convex polyhedron
of $n$ faces is a fair die in the sense that, upon random rolling, it has an equal ...

**40**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### What do Weierstrass points look like?

As somebody who mostly works with smooth, real manifolds, I've always been a little uncomfortable with Weierstrass points. Smooth manifolds are totally homogeneous, but in the complex category you ...

**34**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### The maximum of a polynomial on the unit circle

Encouraged by the progress made in a recently posted MO problem, here is a "conceptually related" problem originating from a 2003 joint paper of Sergei Konyagin and myself.
Suppose we are given $n$ ...

**33**

votes

**10**answers

3k views

### Is there a mathematical axiomatization of time (other than, perhaps, entropy)?

Since Euclid's axiomatization of space, we have developed a sophisticated mathematical model of space. Given a category of structures (measures), local space is modeled the spectrum of measurements ...

**30**

votes

**5**answers

854 views

### Can every $\mathbb{Z}^2$ disk be pinball-reached?

Let every point of $\mathbb{Z}^2$ be surrounded by a mirrored disk of radius $r < \frac{1}{2}$,
except leave the origin $(0,0)$ unoccupied by a disk.
Q. Is it the case that every disk can be ...

**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${}^*$ ...

**28**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### $\exists$ a shot in ideal pocket billiards?

Assume you have one shot with the cue ball in pocket billiards (a.k.a. pool), with
the game idealized in that no spin is placed on the cue ball in
the initial shot, all collisions between billiard ...

**25**

votes

**9**answers

3k views

### Why is the Laplacian ubiquitous?

The title says it all.
I'm wondering why the Laplacian appears everywhere, e.g. number theory, Riemannian geometry, quantum mechanics, and representation theory. And people seems to care about their ...

**25**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Why is Fourier analysis so handy for proving the isoperimetric inequality?

I have just completed an introductory course on analysis, and have been looking over my notes for the year. For me, although it was certainly not the most powerful or important theorem which we ...

**24**

votes

**2**answers

841 views

### The kissing number of a square, cube, hypercube?

How many nonoverlapping unit squares can (nonoverlappingly) touch one unit square?
By "nonoverlapping" I mean: not sharing an interior point.
By "touch" I mean: sharing a boundary point.
...

**23**

votes

**3**answers

4k views

### Sheaves and bundles in differential geometry

Because the theory of sheaves is a functorial theory, it has been adopted in algebraic geometry (both using the functor of points approach and the locally ringed space approach) as the "main theory" ...

**23**

votes

**2**answers

954 views

### Geometry of complex elliptic curves

Is there an elliptic curve in CP^2 whose induced Remannian metric ( induced from the Fubini-Sudy metric on CP^2) is Euclidian flat?

**23**

votes

**7**answers

4k views

### Is there a generalisation of the “sunflower spiral” to higher dimensions?

There is a well known pattern that turns up in nature involving the golden ratio $\phi = \frac{\sqrt{5}-1}{2}$.
To get this "sunflower spiral" pattern, put the $k$th node at an angle of $2\pi \phi ...

**22**

votes

**7**answers

2k views

### Rolle's theorem in n dimensions

This looks like a statement from a calculus textbook, which perhaps it should be.
"Rolle's theorem". Let $F\colon [a,b]\to\mathbb R^n$ be a continuous function such that F(a)=F(b) and F'(t) exists ...

**22**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Why is the half-torus rigid?

The half-torus surface that results from slicing a torus like a bagel,
depicted below (left), is isometrically rigid.
I know this from a remark of Alexandrov in
Mathematics: ...

**21**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Parabolic envelope of fireworks

The envelope of parabolic trajectories from a common launch point
is itself a parabola.
In the U.S. this weekend many will have a chance to
observe this fact direcly, as the 4th of July is ...

**21**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### A Weak Form of Borsuk's Conjecture

Problem: Let P be a d-dimensional polytope with n facets. Is it always true that P can be covered by n sets of smaller diameter?
Background and motivation
The Borsuk conjecture (disproved in ...

**20**

votes

**5**answers

816 views

### Iterated Circumcircle

Take three noncollinear points (a,b,c), compute the center of their circumcircle x, and replace a random one of a,b,c with x. Repeat. It seems this process may converge to a point, assuming no ...

**20**

votes

**2**answers

947 views

### Forbidden mirror sequences

Let $\cal{M}$ be a finite collection of two-sided mirrors,
each an open unit-length segment in $\mathbb{R^2}$,
and such that the segments when closed are disjoint.
A ray of light that reflects off the ...

**20**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Functions whose gradient-descent paths are geodesics

Let $f(x,y)$ define a surface $S$
in $\mathbb{R}^3$ with a unique local minimum at $b \in S$.
Suppose gradient descent from any start point $a \in S$
follows a geodesic on $S$ from $a$ to $b$.
(Q1.)
...

**20**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Intuitive proof that the first (n-2) coordinates on a sphere are uniform in a ball

It is a classical fact that if $(x_1,\ldots,x_n)$ is a random vector uniformly distributed on the sphere $S^{n-1} \subseteq \mathbb{R}^n$, then the random vector $(x_1,\ldots,x_{n-2})$ is uniformly ...

**18**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### What upper bounds are known for the diameter of the minimum spanning tree of $n$ uniformly random points in $[0,1]^2$?

Let $P$ be a pointset consisting of $n$ uniformly random elements of $[0,1]^2$. It is known that the diameter (greatest number of edges in any shortest path between two points) of the Delaunay ...

**18**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Probing a manifold with geodesics

Supposed you stand at a point $p \in M$ on a smooth 2-manifold $M$
embedded in $\mathbb{R}^3$.
You do not know anything about $M$.
You shoot off a geodesic $\gamma$ in some direction $u$,
and learn ...

**18**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Minimal surface in a ball

Assume a minimal surface $\Sigma$ has boundary on the unit sphere in the Euclidean space
and $r$ is the distance from $\Sigma$ to the center of the ball.
Is it true that
$$\mathop{\rm area} \Sigma\ge ...

**17**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Is there a combinatorial analogue of Ricci flow?

The question of generalising circle packing to three dimensions was asked in 65677. There is a clear consensus that there is no obvious three dimensional version of circle packing.
However I have ...

**17**

votes

**2**answers

807 views

### Placing points on a sphere so that no 3 lie close to the same plane

Motivation
I am working with arbitrary parallelopiped tilings given by projection from a higher dimensional space. The collection of tiles, and some properties of the higher dimensional space are ...

**17**

votes

**1**answer

576 views

### Is the ball reducible in some high dimension?

Let $K$ be a bounded symmetric ($-K=K$) open convex body in $\mathbb R^n$. The critical determinant $d(K)$ of $K$ is the least possible volume $|\operatorname{det}(a_1\dots a_n)|$
of the fundamental ...

**16**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Turning pants inside-out (or backwards) while tied together

An entertaining topological party trick that I have seen performed is to turn your pants inside-out while having your feet tied together by a piece of string. For a demonstration, check out this ...

**16**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### Is there a topological description of combinatorial Euler characteristic?

There are a collection of definitions of "combinatorial Euler characteristic", which is different from the "homotopy Euler characteristic". I will describe a few of them and give some references, and ...

**16**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Can the unsolvability of quintics be seen in the geometry of the icosahedron?

Q1. Is it possible to somehow "see" the unsolvability of quintic polynomials
in the $A_5$ symmetries of the icosahedron (or dodecahedron)?
Perhaps this is too vague a question.
Q2. Are there ...

**16**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Prescribing areas of parallelograms (or 2x2 principal minors)

Let $(a_{ij})$ be a $n\times n$ symmetric matrix such that $a_{ij}\geq 0$ for all $i,j$ and $a_{ii}=0$ for all $i$. Under which conditions on the $a_{ij}$'s can one find $n$ vectors ...

**16**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### A question about the proof of Mostow rigidity

I have recently been studying a proof of Mostow rigidity (along the lines of Mostow's original argument), and I'm left a little confused about something. We start with an isomorphism $\alpha: \Gamma ...

**16**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### What can be said about the Shadow hull and the Sight hull?

This is a question implicitly raised by Is the sphere the only surface all of whose projections are circles? Or: Can we deduce a spherical Earth by observing that its shadows on the Moon are always ...

**16**

votes

**0**answers

505 views

### Random Distance Matrices

My question is motivated by the following recent paper:
http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.6333
Assume you have a metric space $(X,d)$ equipped with a Borel probability measure $\mu$. We can further assume ...

**15**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Largest hyperbolic disk embeddable in Euclidean 3-space?

Hilbert proved that there's no complete regular (C^k for sufficiently large k) isometric embedding of the hyperbolic plane into R^3. On the other hand, the pseudosphere is locally isometric to the ...

**15**

votes

**4**answers

624 views

### Sweep-segment bot: Will this random walk sweep the plane?

This model is inspired by the random behavior of the
Roomba sweeping robot.
Let a unit segment $ab$ in the plane be placed
initially with $a=(0,0)$ and $b=(1,0)$.
The segment is first rotated a ...

**15**

votes

**2**answers

380 views

### Integer lattice points on a hypersphere

Is the following statement true?
For every integer $n\ge2$ and every integer $k\ge0$ there exists a hypersphere in $\mathbb{R}^n$ (circle, sphere etc) containing exactly $k$ integer lattice ...

**15**

votes

**5**answers

951 views

### Is a rhombus rigid on a sphere or torus? And generalizations.

If a rectangle is formed from rigid bars for edges and joints
at vertices, then it is flexible in the plane: it can flex
to a parallelogram.
On any smooth surface with a metric, one can define a ...

**15**

votes

**1**answer

670 views

### Blocking visibility with cylinders

Suppose you have a supply of infinite-length, opaque, unit-radius cylinders,
and you would like to block all visibility from a point
$p \in \mathbb{R}^3$ to infinity with as few cylinders as possible.
...

**15**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Hanging a ball with string

What is the shortest length of string that suffices to hang
a unit-radius ball $B$?
This question is related to an earlier MO question, but I think different.
Assume that the ball is ...

**15**

votes

**2**answers

680 views

### Arrangements of points in the plane

Let $p_1,\ldots,p_n$ be a collection of distinct points in $\mathbb{R}^2$, no three of which lie on a line. For each $p_i$, let $\omega_i(p_1,\ldots,p_n)$ be the following ordered list (well-defined ...

**15**

votes

**0**answers

676 views

### Milnor's cartography problem

Let $\Omega$ be a round disc of radius $\alpha<\pi/2$ on the standard sphere.
It is easy to construct a $(1,\tfrac{\alpha}{\sin\alpha})$-bi-Lipschitz map from $\Omega$ to the plane.
Is it true ...

**14**

votes

**3**answers

861 views

### Use of n-transitivity in finite group theory

Hello, apparently finite groups which are n-transitive with n>5 are only the permutation groups Sn or the alternating groups An+2, see e.g. page 226 this book by Isaacs ...

**14**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### When does the set of isometries form a group?

Motivation
Its a classic set up. Take a metric space $M$, with distance function $d:M\times M\to \mathbb{R}$. The set of isometries of $M$ is the set of functions $f: M \to M$ which preserve ...

**14**

votes

**5**answers

863 views

### How far is a set of vectors from being orthogonal?

Given some vectors, how many dimensions do you need to add (to their span) before you can find some mutually orthogonal vectors that project down to the original ones?
Or, more formally...
Suppose ...

**14**

votes

**1**answer

583 views

### Totally rational polytopes

Define a convex polytope in $\mathbb{R}^d$ as
totally rational (my terminology)
if its vertex coordinates are rational, its edge lengths
are rational, its two-dimensional face areas are rational, ...