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28
votes
15answers
2k views

Objects which can't be defined without making choices but which end up independent of the choice

It happens a lot of times that when one defines a new object (ring, module, space, group, algebra, morphism, whatever) out of given data one first chooses some additional structure. And sometimes ...
5
votes
4answers
778 views

Is the componentwise square-root of a positive-definite matrix also pos.-def.?

Let $A=(a_{ij}) \in \mathbb{R}^{n \times n}$ be a matrix with $a_{ij} = a_{ji} \geq 0$ and $B=(b_{ij})$ with $b_{ij} = \sqrt{a_{ij}}$. Is $B$ positive-definite whenever $A$ is? In other words: ...
117
votes
39answers
33k views

Most interesting mathematics mistake?

Some mistakes in mathematics made by extremely smart and famous people can eventually lead to interesting developments and theorems, e.g. Poincaré's 3d sphere characterization or the search to prove ...
-2
votes
1answer
102 views

Correction symbols used for mathematical texts [closed]

When proof reading and correcting a mathematical text, I sometimes see people use special notation symbols in the margin to indicate correction, deletion, replacement and so on. Is there any standard ...
8
votes
1answer
653 views

On the parity of $[x^n]$

I am trying to find a problem which appeared years ago in the American Mathematical Monthly. It went something like this: There was a Putnam Competition question which asked to show that there is a ...
22
votes
4answers
1k views

Expert, Intuitive, Organizing Analogies

In learning a new area it is very helpful to have high-level intuitive analogies that keep track of the various parts of an important argument or strategy. Experts have a store of such things, and ...
35
votes
25answers
6k views

Where can square roots come from when they are not distances?

In a recent survey "Supergeometry in Mathematics and Physics", Kapranov points out cases in which observable quantities of immediate interest are represented as bilinear combinations of more ...
94
votes
94answers
12k views

What would you want to see at the Museum of Mathematics?

EDIT (30 Nov 2012): MoMath is opening in a couple of weeks, so this seems like it might be a good time for any last-minute additions to this question before I vote to close my own question as "no ...
6
votes
1answer
168 views

Solution to $(A+x^2)e^x=B$ with Lambert W function

Is it possible to obtain a analytical solution for $(A+x^2)e^x=B$, where we want to solve for $x$ with $A,B$ as constants?
146
votes
38answers
24k views

Demonstrating that rigour is important

Any pure mathematician will from time to time discuss, or think about, the question of why we care about proofs, or to put the question in a more precise form, why we seem to be so much happier with ...
30
votes
2answers
994 views

Applications of Lawvere's fixed point theorem

Lawvere's fixed point theorem states that in a cartesian closed category, if there is a morphism $A \to X^A$ which is point-surjective (meaning that $\hom(1,A) \to \hom(1,X^A)$ is surjective), then ...
3
votes
6answers
1k views

Circumference of Convex Shapes

Here is a puzzle I found in Mitteilungen der DMV (roughly, "Letters of the German Society of Mathematicians"), issue 19/2011. It was posed by Alfred Schreiber in "Wie man Hasen fangt" (How to catch ...
7
votes
23answers
3k views

A search for theorems which appear to have very few, if any hypotheses [closed]

I'm interested in theorems which appear to have very few, if any hypotheses. Essentially a search for unexpected regularity or pattern in a relatively unstructured situation. By "few hypotheses" I ...
9
votes
4answers
733 views

Is there any monoid in which the product of two non-invertible elements could be invertible?

I think the title speaks for itself. Thus I just explain the story behind the question. Of course, you may want to skip the story. Story: Currently, I teach a course in linear algebra and matrices ...
60
votes
9answers
7k views

Have you solved problems in your sleep?

I have hit upon major (for me—relative to my trivial accomplishments) insights in my research in various sleep-deprived altered states of consciousness, e.g., long solo car-drives extending ...
12
votes
2answers
987 views

Anything special (historical?) about surface $x\cdot y\cdot z\ +\ x+y+z=0$?

QUESTION I wanted to introduce and develop the complex logarithm from scratch. As the result I've arrived a couple of months ago at the following identity after which the road to complex logarithm is ...
-1
votes
1answer
54 views

Idempotent solutions to the implict function theorem other than the identity?

I am interested in the following problem. Assume that an (anti)symmetric function $g:\mathbb{R}^2 \to \mathbb{R}$ satisfies the implicit function theorem. That is, $g(x,y) = \pm g(y,x)$ and $g(x,y)=0$ ...
2
votes
2answers
350 views

A logarithmic cotangent inequality

I must be a terrible googling searcher but I cannot find a reference to the following inequality: $$ \forall_{\phi\in(0;\frac \pi 4)}\ \ln(\cot(\phi)))\, <\, \cot(2\!\cdot\!\phi) $$ I have just ...
14
votes
12answers
3k views

Why semigroups could be important?

There is known a lot about the use of groups -- they just really appear a lot, and appear naturally. Is there any known nice use of semigroups in Maths to sort of prove they are indeed important in ...
59
votes
15answers
6k views

Sophisticated treatments of topics in school mathematics

Sophisticated mathematical concepts typically shed light on sophisticated mathematics. But in a few cases they also apply to elementary mathematics in an interesting way. I find such examples ...
2
votes
1answer
124 views

Conic sections in high dimensions

Can every $n$-dimensional ellipsoid be obtained as a (spherical) conic section? This is false for generic quadrics but seems true for ellipsoid. Does anybody have any references?
16
votes
36answers
3k views

Basic results with three or more hypotheses

Consider the following statement of the Arzela-Ascoli theorem. Theorem. Let K be a compact topological space and let S be a subset of C(K). Then S is relatively compact if and only if S is uniformly ...
15
votes
7answers
2k views

Is this a rational function?

Is $$\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac{z^n}{2^n-1} \in \mathbb{C}(z)\ ?$$ In a slightly different vein, given a sequence of real numbers $\{a_n\}_{n=0}^\infty$, what are some necessary and sufficient ...
34
votes
4answers
3k views

Famous vacuously true statements

I am interested to know other examples vacuously true statements that are non-trivial. My starting example is Turan's result in regards to the Riemann hypothesis, which states Suppose that for each ...
115
votes
16answers
16k views

When should a supervisor be a co-author?

What are people's views on this? To be specific: suppose a PhD student has produced a piece of original mathematical research. Suppose that student's supervisor suggested the problem, and gave a few ...
40
votes
9answers
6k views

How does a mathematician choose on which problem to work?

Main question: How does a mathematician choose on which problem to work? An example approach to framing one's answer: What is a mathematical problem - big or small - that you solved or are ...
1
vote
1answer
88 views

Discrete summation of Gaussian functions. Decay time problem

I am facing the following problem. I have a function which is defined through a discrete sum of Gaussians $$F_M(t) = 2\sum\limits_{n=1}^{M}e^{-t^2 \sigma^2 n^2}\times \sum\limits_{k=n}^{M}p_k p_{k-n} ...
22
votes
2answers
1k views

What might extraterrestrial mathematics look like? [closed]

In an extensive anthropological joint research project concerning the necessities in the development of life and civilisation my group is concerned with mathematics. This forum seems to be extremely ...
47
votes
7answers
4k views

Has anyone thought about creating a formal proof wiki with verifier?

Mathematics has undergone some rather nice developments recently with the adoption of new techologies, things like on-line journals, the arXiv, this website, etc. I imagine there must be many further ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the term for combining functions $f_1,f_2,\dots,f_n$ into a tuple $(f_1,\dots,f_n)$?

This is an embarrassingly simple question, but I was not able to find a definitive answer from literature search. Suppose one has some collection of functions $f_1: X \to Y_1, \dots, f_n: X \to Y_n$ ...
33
votes
9answers
4k views

Dimensional Analysis in Mathematics

Is there a sensible and useful definition of units in mathematics? In other words, is there a theory of dimensional analysis for mathematics? In physics, an extremely useful tool is the Buckingham Pi ...
8
votes
1answer
265 views

Geometric meaning of unimodular matrix

Rotations are given by unitary matrices. What is the geometric meaning of unimodular matrices that are not unitary?
2
votes
0answers
45 views

Find Moment condition for generalized method of moments

Consider a scalar system with 2K outputs and K+2 unknowns $y_{k,1}=x_ka_1+n_{k,1} \quad y_{k,2}=x_ka_2+n_{k,1}$. The variables $n_{k,\ell}$ are zero mean noise variables. To estimate $a_1$ and $a_2$, ...
6
votes
1answer
742 views

Windows into new mathematical worlds [closed]

Yitang Zhang's Annals of Mathematics primes-gap result opened a new window, which Polymath's reduction from $70\times 10^6$ to $246$ attests. Perhaps Harald Helfgott's celebrated proof of the odd ...
2
votes
1answer
492 views

What is the rate of convergence? [closed]

How quickly does the series defined by $$x_0 = 0, \ x_{n+1} = \frac{x_n^2+1}{2}$$ converge to $1$?
4
votes
2answers
189 views

Find the expansion of the exact solution (beyond Taylor)

In a paper by Kitagawa & Ueda Squeezed spin states they give an argument that the minimum variance in one-axis twisting Hamiltonian scales like $V_{min} \propto S^{-2/3}$. I will shortly describe ...
17
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do people use “formal calculation” to describe informal calculations?

Many times, I see the word formal being used to describe a calculation that is not rigorous. I would think that such calculations should rather be termed informal than formal. What is the explanation ...
1
vote
0answers
121 views

General procedure to find the determinant of an operator?

I want to learn to find the determinant of an operator. I am given an operator like $\Sigma _{\alpha\beta}=-k^2g_{\alpha\beta}+i\theta\epsilon_{\alpha\beta\gamma} k^\gamma$ $k^2=k^μk_μ$, $g^{αβ}$ ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Which way for reading the proofs?

I am a master student in mathematics. For me a large part of doing mathematics is thinking about, reading and verifying the proof of theorems that I find them in my field of study. I can do this ...
2
votes
6answers
3k views

Proofs by induction [closed]

Background I'm interested in the issue of "explanatory" mathematical proofs and would like to try to find out what intuitions mathematicians have about induction, because there seems to be some ...
25
votes
5answers
2k views

Collaboration or acknowledgment?

This post is a sequel of: When should a supervisor be a co-author? This time the topic is about the interaction between two professional mathematicians (in particular junior-senior, but not ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

What are the applications of operator algebras to other areas?

Question: What are the applications of operator algebras to other areas? More precisely, I would like to know the results in mathematical areas outside of operator algebras which were proved by ...
91
votes
20answers
13k views

Mathematical habits of thought and action which would be of use to non-mathematicians

Once again I come to MO for help with something I'm writing for the public. Which habits of mathematicians -- aspects of the way we approach problems, the way we argue, the way we function as a ...
40
votes
8answers
3k views

Published results: when to take them for granted?

Two kinds of papers. There are two kinds of papers: self-contained ones, and those relying on published results (which I believe are the vast majority). Checking the result. Of course, one should ...
9
votes
11answers
3k views

What advanced Area of Mathematics can be delved into with only basic Calculus and Linear Algebra

Hello Mathoverflow Community, I would really appreciate some advice on this: All I know is Basic Calculus and Basic Linear Algebra, I want to start learning more advanced material on my own while ...
63
votes
6answers
2k views

Good ways to engage in mathematics outreach?

Greetings all, I have often heard that it would be good if we as a community did more in the way of mathematics outreach: more to explain what it is we do to the community at large, more to expose ...
23
votes
5answers
3k views

Where do surreal numbers come from and what do they mean?

I know about Conway's original discovery of the surreal numbers by way of games, as well as Kruskal's way of viewing surreal numbers in terms of asymptotic behavior of real-valued functions, leading ...
3
votes
1answer
905 views

Mathematics of Computer science and AI [closed]

Computer science and Artificial Intelligence have been fertile grounds for research for decades, not only for Engineers but particularly for Mathematicians. What kinds of Mathematics have emerged ...
0
votes
2answers
327 views

link to a paper by Ramanujan

Hi friends, Does anybody know of a pdf version of the following paper ? Ramanujan, S. “Modular Equations and Approximations to Pi.” Quart. J. Pure Appl. Math. 45, 350-372, 1913-1914. It's ...
2
votes
2answers
655 views

Popular books written by great mathematicians [closed]

I read: H. Poincare. Value of science F. Klein. Development of Mathematics in the 19th Century J.E. Littlewood. A Mathematicians Miscellany G.H. Hardy. A Mathematician’s Apology R. Courant, ...