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69
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4answers
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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 ...
56
votes
2answers
3k views

Light reflecting off Christmas-tree balls

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51
votes
3answers
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 ...
46
votes
4answers
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
8answers
5k 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 ...
38
votes
12answers
2k views

Can a discrete set of the plane of uniform density intersect all large triangles?

Let S be a discrete subset of the Euclidean plane such that the number of points in a large disc is approximatively equal to the area of the disc. Does the complement of S necessarily contain ...
37
votes
6answers
2k 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
4answers
2k 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
7answers
4k views

“Algebraic” topologies like the Zariski topology?

The fact that a commutative ring has a natural topological space associated with it is still a really interesting coincidence. The entire subject of Algebraic geometry is based on this simple fact. ...
30
votes
1answer
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Pach's “Animals”: What if genus $> 0$ ?

Janos Pach asked a deep question 23 years ago (1988) that remains unsolved today: Can every animal—a topological ball in $\mathbb{R^3}$ composed of unit cubes glued face-to-face—be ...
28
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6answers
2k views

Is it possible to partition $\mathbb R^3$ into unit circles?

Is it possible to partition $\mathbb R^3$ into unit circles?
28
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4answers
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 ...
27
votes
10answers
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 ...
27
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3answers
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Is “Napkin conjecture” open ? (ORIGAMI)

If false the following conjecture would be a nice counter intuitive fact. Given a square sheet of perimeter $P$ when folding it along Origami moves you end up with some polygonal flat figure with ...
27
votes
4answers
734 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 ...
27
votes
3answers
999 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${}^*$ ...
23
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9answers
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 ...
23
votes
2answers
706 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
7answers
3k 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
5answers
2k 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
891 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?
22
votes
2answers
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
5answers
1k views

What is a good method to find random points on the n-sphere when n is large?

As part of a more complex algorithm, I need a fast method to find random points of the n-sphere, $S^n$, starting with a RNG (random number generator). A simple way to do this (in low dimensions at ...
21
votes
7answers
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 ...
21
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
20
votes
5answers
2k views

Nonconvex manhole covers

One common reason given for the circularity of manhole covers is so they can't fall through the manhole. For convex manhole covers, this property is equivalent to having constant width -- if you have ...
20
votes
5answers
800 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
2answers
881 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
2answers
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
2answers
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 ...
20
votes
1answer
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 ...
19
votes
3answers
3k 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" ...
18
votes
3answers
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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 ...
17
votes
3answers
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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
2answers
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 ...
17
votes
2answers
843 views

Four Dimensional Origami Axioms

What are the axioms of four dimensional Origami. If standard Origami is considered three dimensional, it has points, lines, surfaces and folds to create a three dimensional form from the folded ...
17
votes
2answers
779 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Classification of PDE

Recently I have been attending a course on PDE's. I was totally ignorant of the subject and wasn't that motivated to be honest. But I was intrigued and felt I had to take the course seriously both for ...
16
votes
2answers
871 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
1answer
371 views

Egalitarian measures

A question I got asked I while ago: If $T$ is a triangle in $\mathbb R^2$, is there a function $f:T\to\mathbb R$ such that the integral of $f$ over each straight segment connecting two points in the ...
16
votes
3answers
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 ...
16
votes
1answer
547 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
3answers
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
2answers
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
1answer
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 ...
15
votes
4answers
597 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
4answers
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
2answers
1k views

A book on locally ringed spaces?

Are there enough interesting results that hold for general locally ringed spaces for a book to have been written? If there are, do you know of a book? If you do, pelase post it, one per answer and a ...
15
votes
2answers
293 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
2answers
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 ...