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116
votes
39answers
34k 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 ...
49
votes
5answers
6k views

Changing field of study post-PhD

I am doing my PhD in algebraic graph theory, for not much more reason than that was what was available. However, I love deep structure and theory in mathematics, and I do not particularly want to be ...
56
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...
34
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 ...
47
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
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 ...
116
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 ...
45
votes
19answers
6k 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 ...
63
votes
10answers
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 ...
35
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. ...
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 ...
32
votes
6answers
3k views

Negative impact of wrong or non-rigorous proofs

The recent talks of Voevodsky (for example, http://www.math.ias.edu/~vladimir/Site3/Univalent_Foundations_files/2014_IAS.pdf), which describe subtle errors in proofs by him as well as others, as well ...
42
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 ...
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 ...
12
votes
16answers
2k views

Individual mathematical objects whose study amounts to a (sub)discipline? [closed]

Certain mathematical objects have a theory so rich that their study alone arguably constitutes a distinct (sub)discipline. My own list would begin with 1) the absolute Galois group of the rationals; ...
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 ...
12
votes
0answers
359 views

Which limit to take as a key applied math decision

The Borel-Kolmogorov paradox refers to situations where non-uniqueness in the notion of conditioning on a set of measure zero leads to apparent contradictions. As a formal matter, one requires ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Results that are easy to prove with a computer, but hard to prove by hand [closed]

Consider the assertion: There is no completely multiplicative function $f:\mathbb{N}\rightarrow \{\pm 1\}$ with $\left|\sum_{n\leq x}f(n)\right|\leq 2$ for all $x\geq 0$. One can write a very short ...
8
votes
1answer
668 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
-5
votes
3answers
787 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
499 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 ...
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 ...