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4
votes
5answers
270 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 ...
71
votes
19answers
9k 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 ...
31
votes
33answers
4k views

Structures that turn out to exhibit a symmetry even though their definition doesn't

Sometimes (often?) a structure depending on several parameters turns out to be symmetric w.r.t. interchanging two of the parameters, even though the definition gives a priori no clue of that symmetry. ...
2
votes
0answers
41 views

Jacobi triple product for multidimensional lattices

The Jacobi triple product identity gives as a special case a product formula for the theta function of a 1-dimensional lattice. Is there a more general product formula for the theta function of an ...
11
votes
9answers
1k views

math circles video lectures for school children?

Hello, I am from India. I find the mathoverflow amazing. I have a question: Are there any good quality video lectures on school math topics? There are a lot of high quality lectures available on ...
4
votes
1answer
273 views

Sources of Theorem drafts by the original author

When I look at first time to a theorem and I try to understand it or when I try to memorise a useful theorem I always have difficulties (I am not the only one. For example: I read a question: I always ...
0
votes
1answer
135 views

What is an example of a non-axiomatic mathematical system? [closed]

In this wikipedia article on the foundations of mathematics, it says: In practice, most mathematicians ... do not work from axiomatic systems Is this correct? If so, what is an example of this?
3
votes
4answers
788 views

Another Chicken or Egg: Sequence or Series

This is a side question which is more motivated by teaching than research. First, I am trying to convince myself that sequences appear before series (as numerical approximations to "interesting" ...
79
votes
90answers
10k 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 ...
13
votes
12answers
2k 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 ...
45
votes
6answers
5k views

Still Difficult After All These Years

I think we all secretly hope that in the long run mathematics becomes easier, in that with advances of perspective, today's difficult results will seem easier to future mathematicians. If I were ...
2
votes
1answer
115 views

Talking about properties of “random” elements

I asked this in MSE but did not get a satisfying answer. I apologize in advance if this is not appropriate for MO. Suppose that we have some set X and we want to say that a "random" (or generic) ...
10
votes
5answers
591 views

Accessible proofs of contemporary results in mathematics

Are there strong results in contemporary mathematical research (last 20 years) which have a proof which every mathematician (holding a PhD) can completely understand within a few days? -- If yes, ...
2
votes
0answers
244 views

Equal signs with fancy marks

Some people use $\stackrel{\mathrm{def}}{=}$, $:=$ or $\stackrel{\Delta}{=}$ for definitions. In more informal contexts, I have also seen $\stackrel{?}{=}$, for "I wish to prove this equality, which ...
7
votes
0answers
231 views

Modelling the difficulty of mental calculation. [closed]

Are you aware of any work that tries to model the difficulty of evaluating a formula mentally (for your average, numerate, person, not a trained mental calculator)? For instance, evaluating an ...
7
votes
1answer
294 views

Experimental mathematics: how are floating point equations discovered/converted to exact equations?

the 2005 AMS article/survey on experimental mathematics[1] by Bailey/Borwein mentions many remarkable successes in the field including new formulas for $\pi$ that were discovered via the PSLQ ...
8
votes
2answers
965 views

Naturally occurring orderings

The are many orderings that naturally occur in interesting but seemingly unrelated circumstances. Here are some examples: The volume spectrum of orientable hyperbolic 3-manifolds has order type ...
9
votes
3answers
513 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
116 views

Ellipses touching a circle [closed]

This is a crosspost from math.stackexchange, where the question did not find an answer. Given a circle and two points $A$, $B$ in the plane, how do I find an ellipse with focal points $A$ and $B$ ...
4
votes
1answer
480 views

Elementary problem about triangles inside a convex polygon

Let P be a convex polygon with area A(P), and to each side of P, attach the largest area triangle possible that lies entirely within P. Must the sum S(P) of the areas of these triangles always satisfy ...
6
votes
1answer
573 views

Sum of subset of geometric series: a^2^n

The formula for 1 + a + a^2 + .... where 0 < a < 1 is $\frac{1}{1-a}$, but what if you wanted to sum only those where the exponent is a power of 2? That is, $S = a + a^2 + a^4 + a^8 + \cdots$ ...
2
votes
3answers
679 views

Is there a simple criterion to determine if two parallelograms intersect?

see title. assume we are given two parallelograms in the plane. how can I check if the intersection is nonempty? note that I do not need to actually find the intersection.
2
votes
5answers
801 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 ...
0
votes
3answers
617 views

Simplifying finite sum over 1/(ax+b)

Can I simplify: \begin{equation} \sum_{x=x_0}^{x_1} \frac{1}{ax+b} \end{equation}
-4
votes
2answers
927 views

what part of using vieta's formulas violates quintic non-solvability? [closed]

You can write the n roots of an n degree polynomial in terms of its n coefficients, i.e., "Vieta's" formulas. You can solve this system of nonlinear equations using Newton's method and the Jacobian. ...
15
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
14
votes
0answers
330 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 ...
36
votes
19answers
4k views

Are there proofs that you feel you did not “understand” for a long time?

Perhaps the "proofs" of ABC conjecture or newly released weak version of twin prime conjecture or alike readily come to your mind. These are not the proofs I am looking for. Indeed my question was ...
1
vote
2answers
318 views

Can one branch of mathematics be completely learned from the perspective of another branch of mathematics? [closed]

This arose from a discussion with a friend (people involved are two engineers) who argued that every result in mathematics should be transformable into another branch. For example, he argued that ...
18
votes
5answers
609 views

Online high quality colloquium talks

In my department we're thinking about showing online lectures one day per week at lunch, as sort of a virtual colloquium appropriate to mathematics undergraduates as well as faculty. To start with ...
7
votes
2answers
791 views

How should you respond to a student who asks whether a very nice physical example constitutes a proof? [closed]

"Is this really a proof?" is the exact question e-mailed to me today from an undergraduate mathematics student whom I know as a highly competent student. The one sentence question was accompanied with ...
15
votes
7answers
1k views

Unexpected applications of the fact that nth degree polynomials are determined by n+1 points

I had a funny idea for proving an identity in Euclidean geometry. While it didn't end up being a very nice proof strategy in my case, I would still like to collect nice examples of where the proof ...
2
votes
1answer
285 views

Computer algebra system (CAS) with good re-presenting or transformation support

Such heavy-weight transformations as expanding or factoring are provided by most of CAS-es, but what about light-weight, but a useful transformations, like "reorder some terms to make expression more ...
4
votes
4answers
411 views

Why do we choose the standard total order on the integers?

I understand why the set of natural numbers $\mathbb N = \{ 0, 1, 2, \cdots \}$ is equipped with a total order. Indeed, every monoid has a pre-order, where $$n' \succeq n \quad \mathrm{if~and~only~if} ...
13
votes
1answer
482 views

Relation between math and piano music

What, if any, is the relation between Cantor's function and Ligeti studio: Devil's Staircase?
89
votes
14answers
11k 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
761 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
894 views

When did you “meet Polya”? [closed]

I guess most of us didn't meet Polya in person (this is the answer to the title)! Perhaps, it is much easier to guess that most of us have met one of his writings (or alike) on problem solving, and ...
11
votes
4answers
424 views

Mathematics of privacy?

I wonder to which extent the current public debate on privacy issues (not only by state sniffing, but e.g. by microtargetting ads too an issue) offers interesting questions in mathematics? Can we ...
6
votes
2answers
472 views

Where is the Euler/Goldbach correspondence?

I know that there is a 1965 volume containing the Euler/Goldbach correspondence, but I'm interested in looking at the original manuscripts. I'm not finding anything at University of Basel or ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

What would remain of current mathematics without axiom of power set? [closed]

The power set of every infinite set is uncountable. An infinite set (as an element of the power set) cannot be defined by writing the infinite sequence of its elements but only by a finite formula. By ...
22
votes
15answers
1k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
647 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 ...
-4
votes
3answers
640 views

Where is the belly button of the Universe? [closed]

It's fine and nice and wonderful when a part of learning mathematics is chaotic, ad hoc, spontaneous, social, ... However it would be perhaps of fundamental value to know a very central point of ...
14
votes
35answers
2k 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
136 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
93 views

Reference needed for: Automatic generation of relevant mathematical exercises (similar to ones written by human) with the help of machine learning

I am doing research on automatic generation of relevant mathematical exercises (similar to ones written by human) with the help of machine learning. I have found several research papers on ...
3
votes
2answers
253 views

Asymptotics of a function

I hope this question is not too simple, but I would like to know the asymptotic behaviour of the following function $f: \mathbb{N}^{+} \rightarrow \mathbb{Q}$ where $$ f(n) = \sum_{i=1}^{n} ...
31
votes
15answers
7k views

Is rigour just a ritual that most mathematicians wish to get rid of if they could?

"No". That was my answer till this afternoon! "Mathematics without proofs isn't really mathematics at all" probably was my longer answer. Yet, I am a mathematics educator who was one of the panelists ...
29
votes
5answers
4k views

Does a referee have to check carefully the proof ?

I have always checked very carefully the papers I was refereeing when I wanted to suggest "accept". Actually I spend almost as much time checking the maths of a paper I referee than checking the maths ...