History and philosophy of mathematics, biographies of mathematicians, mathematics education, recreational mathematics, communication of mathematics.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

3
votes
1answer
788 views

Who coined “mob” and “clan” and why these words?

A mob is a word used for a topological semigroup which is a Hausdorff space. A clan is a compact connected mob with a two-sided identity element. Who used these words with these meanings first and ...
-4
votes
0answers
200 views

Mathematical urban legend - Best second tier mathematician [closed]

A few years ago I heard a story about a talk given at Stanford by a famous probabilist, perhaps Kai-Lai Chung. The speaker got into some sort of argument with a mathematician in attendance, and called ...
5
votes
1answer
150 views

Did Lucas discover Lucas circles?

MathWord's article on Lucas circles traces the name to a little-known 1973 publication. These interesting circles have found their way into several 21st century publications, including the online ...
2
votes
0answers
92 views

Examples of Geometric Constructions in Higher Dimensions

The classical problem of geometric construction seems to be restricted to planar Euclidean Geometry with straight edge and compass as the only admissible "construction-tools". I would like to ...
3
votes
1answer
200 views

Was $\Sigma x$ used as quantifier?

Kurt Gödel in 1931 used $x\Pi a$ where we in contemporary notation would use $(\forall x) A$ or $(x)A$, and $Ex a$ where we would use $(\exists x) A$. I believe that I remember that $\Sigma xA$ has ...
5
votes
2answers
199 views

History of the orientation of Cartesian coordinates in drawing

Is there any actual historical example in which a Cartesian plane with all four quadrants has been used, but with all axes marked with positive numbers? [Please see Sawyer's paper below for a ...
0
votes
1answer
243 views

History of Poincare conjecture in higher dimension [closed]

As far as I know, when Poincare formulated his well known conjecture, the original statement was the follwoing: if a closed manifold has the same homology groups as the sphere it is homoeomorphic to ...
11
votes
2answers
827 views

Banach-Zarecki theorem - who was Zarecki?

I'm writing a paper for real analysis seminar, a paper about Banach-Zarecki theorem and I need some information about the authors. Stefan Banach - there is no problem to find information about him. ...
1
vote
0answers
145 views

Filmed lectures by Jürgen Moser

Are there any filmed lectures by outstanding German mathematician Jürgen Moser (July 4, 1928 – December 17, 1999)?
51
votes
2answers
948 views

History of $\frac d{dt}\tan^{-1}(t)=\frac 1{1+t^2}$

Let $\theta = \tan^{-1}(t)$. Nowadays it is taught: 1º that $$ \frac{d\theta}{dt} = \frac 1{dt\,/\,d\theta} = \frac 1{1+t^2}, \tag1 $$ 2º that, via the fundamental theorem of calculus, this is ...
11
votes
0answers
219 views

Why is a matrix pencil called a pencil?

I'm trying to understand the historical context behind the word pencil in matrix pencils, or pencil of curves so on. I am aware that even Gantmacher 1959 has this terminology however I don't know ...
12
votes
0answers
240 views

Grothendieck on polyhedra over finite fields

In Grothendieck's Sketch of a Programme he spends a few pages discussing polyhedra over arbitrary rings and concludes with some intriguing remarks on specializing polyhedra over their "most singular ...
2
votes
1answer
134 views

Two questions on substitutability

(1) The condition that a term $a$ be substitutable for another term in an expression can be given a recursive definition. Who first developed such a definition? (2) One sometimes see the phrase "$a$ ...
1
vote
0answers
336 views

Why did Grothendieck say stop publishing his works? [closed]

Why did Grothendieck say stop publishing his works? https://sbseminar.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/grothendiecks-letter/ Any edition or dissemination of such texts which have been made in the past ...
0
votes
0answers
47 views

Shuffle multiplication and generalized Leibniz rule in tensor calculus

The headline already says it: Is anybody (except me) aware of this formula for higher total covariant derivatives of tensor products? It is the simplest application of the commutative shuffle product ...
1
vote
0answers
82 views

Why are they called 'pernicious' numbers?

The definition of a pernicious number: In number theory, a pernicious number is a positive integer where the Hamming weight (or digit sum) of its binary representation is prime. The meaning of ...
2
votes
1answer
188 views

When was the “arrow notation” for functions first introduced?

When was the "arrow notation" $f: X \to Y$ for functions first introduced? Who introduced it and with which motivation? I ask this question in order to understand whether it was, in part, this ...
5
votes
2answers
232 views

Convention about “long” roots for simple Lie algebras of types ADE?

The classification of simple Lie algebras (over $\mathbb{C}$ or other sufficiently large field of characteristic 0) correlates these Lie algebras with the irreducible reduced root systems (in ...
4
votes
1answer
410 views

Did Brouwer evade uncountability?

I have the distinct memory of having often heard and read that intuitionism was inter alia geared to avoid Cantor's uncountable sets, and it may be that this was Brouwer's plan. But are there accounts ...
10
votes
1answer
432 views

Metric $d(A,B) = \mathbb P(\overline A\cup\overline B\mid A\cup B)$

I'm wondering where the relative probabilistic distance was first studied: $$d(A,B) =\mathbb P(\overline A\cup\overline B\mid A\cup B)$$ where $\overline A$ is the complement of $A$. A web search ...
49
votes
4answers
4k views

Are there any serious investigations of whether “mathematicians do their best work when they're young”?

There is no shortage of anecdotes and conjectures on both sides of this widespread belief, but good supporting data either way is harder to find. Can anyone provide any references for serious ...
7
votes
1answer
344 views

Discovery and Study of Conic Sections in Ancient Greece

Is there anything known about what drew the attention of ancient greek mathematicians to conic sections and, what were the models they used to study conic sections? What I would like to know, is ...
8
votes
0answers
162 views

Who first proved the fundamental theorem of projective geometry?

The following theorem is often called the fundamental theorem of projective geometry: Let $k$ be a field and let $n \geq 3$. Let $X$ be the partially ordered set of nonzero proper subspaces of ...
6
votes
0answers
240 views

What is the reason that $\sigma$-algebra replaced $\sigma$-ring in introductory measure theory?

May I ask what is the (historical) reason we adopted the $\sigma$-algebra rhetoric instead of $\sigma$-rings (like used in Halmos)? To my knowledge almost all modern measure theory or real analysis ...
4
votes
0answers
251 views

Reference request : Grothendieck's topological space valued integral

As I am learning the different kind of Banach space valued integrals (Pettis, Bochner), I know that Grothendieck made a "mémoire" in his youth about this topic, but I don't know if it is available ...
6
votes
2answers
516 views

Who first introduced the functional definition of symmetry?

Who first introduced the definition of symmetry using functions explicitly? (That is, for instance, a symmetry of a subset $X$ of the plane is a function $F$ from the plane to the plane that preserves ...
3
votes
1answer
166 views

Longevity of “random” conjectures

The "random" sample is obviously very, very skewed: If you would be asked to name a random conjecture, it probably will be a "famous" conjecture, and the longer a conjecture stands, the more famous it ...
9
votes
1answer
589 views

What is a totient?

In addition to the Euler totient function, there are a great many generalizations and related functions which go by the "totient", usually with some name: Jordan, Lehmer*, Schemmel, Nagell, Alder, ...
12
votes
4answers
911 views

Sierpinski's construction of a non-measurable set

In the early 20th century there was a lot of fuss over the axiom of choice implying that there are Lebesgue non-measurable sets of reals. In his book about The Axiom of Choice, Gregory Moore points to ...
11
votes
2answers
335 views

A bit of history of Verdier duality

I was wondering who originated the presentation of Verdier duality as an equivalence between categories of sheaves and cosheaves ? I learnt it reading Jacob Lurie's Higher Algebra and Justin Curry's ...
5
votes
1answer
477 views

Modular forms and “too many symmetries”

How do we interpret Barry Mazur's quote of Modular forms are functions on the complex plane that are inordinately symmetric. They satisfy so many internal symmetries that their mere existence ...
4
votes
1answer
343 views

Cap product à la Poincaré

Recently, it became apparent to me that I was not the only one who always first thought in terms of cap product before actually computing a cup product. There is no denying this is evil, but I found ...
28
votes
1answer
714 views

Producing finite objects by forcing!

It is a trivial fact that forcing can not produce finite sets of ground model objects. However there are situations, where we can use forcing to prove the existence of finite objects with some ...
1
vote
0answers
46 views

Reason for the Choice of Line Parameters in the Radon Transform

Why are the lines, over which the integrals in a Radon Transform are calculated, apparently always parameterized as $L(t,\phi,\alpha) := ...
5
votes
0answers
136 views

Link between abelian groups and endomorphisms

When teaching Algebra, I try to share my fascination about two apparently unrelated questions, which turn out to involve the same theory: classifying the finitely generated abelian groups, ...
7
votes
1answer
265 views

Euler's Triangular Number closure properties

Burton, in "Elementary Number Theory", states that the following problems are due to Euler 1775: If $n$ is a triangular number, then so are $9n+1$, $25n+3$ and $49n + 6$. R. F. Jordan in the J. ...
12
votes
1answer
745 views

Von Neumann's consistency proof

In the paper Zur Hilbertschen Beweistheorie, John Von Neumann has proposed a consistency proof for a fragment of first-order arithmetic (the fragment without induction and with the successor axioms ...
9
votes
2answers
262 views

When was Bounded Zermelo set theory first formulated?

Bounded Zermelo set theory, and many variants named for MacLane in some way, are used in equiconsistency proofs for Simple Theory of Types plus infinity, and for the Elementary Theory of the Category ...
5
votes
1answer
346 views

Oldest photographed mathematician [closed]

Who is the most ancient mathematician of which we have a photograph? (or, in the same vein, what is the oldest photograph of a mathematician) A quick search on MacTutor History of Mathematics gives ...
5
votes
0answers
210 views

When did “Betti cohomology” come to be used the way it is today? (and how is it used)

This is sort of a mixture of a math and history question. First the math part: thinking about it, I do not actually know how to properly use the term "Betti cohomology". I know I should, but I ...
11
votes
3answers
449 views

Riemann's formula for the metric in a normal neighborhood

I would love to understand the famous formula $g_{ij}(x) = \delta_{ij} + \frac{1}{3}R_{kijl}x^kx^l +O(||x||^3)$, which is valid in Riemannian normal coordinates and possibly more general situations. ...
13
votes
2answers
477 views

Who first noticed that Stirling numbers of the second kind count partitions?

When the Stirling numbers of the second kind were introduced by James Stirling in 1730, it was not combinatorially; rather, the numbers ${n \brace k}$ were defined via the polynomial identity $$ x^n = ...
1
vote
1answer
276 views

Disruptive innovations in mathematical notations [closed]

I am wondering whether there are examples of mathematical notations that, once introduced, have drastically changed or simplified the way to address a problem or a mathematical area, or that have ...
2
votes
3answers
383 views

How did the summation operation come into use? [closed]

So we've been using summations at least since the dawn of calculus. I'm wondering how the process of summing a function came to be known? Are there events that led to the invention of the summation ...
5
votes
2answers
484 views

Who first defined quantum integers?

Who first gave the defintion of quantum integers $$ [m]_q = \frac{1 - q^m}{1 - q} $$ and addition as $$ [m]_q \oplus_q [n]_q = [m]_q + q^m [n]_q $$ and multiplication as $$ [m]_q \otimes_q [n]_q = ...
30
votes
1answer
2k views

What did Rolle prove when he proved Rolle's theorem?

Rolle published what we today call Rolle's theorem about 150 years before the arithmetization of the reals. Unfortunately this proof seems to have been buried in a long book [Rolle 1691] that I can't ...
6
votes
2answers
320 views

Who first used/gave a coordinate representation of a graph?

In his proof of the Shannon capacity of a graph, Lovasz utilizes a coordinate representation of the pentagon (namely an orthonormal representation). Who first utilized a coordinate representation for ...
58
votes
21answers
10k views

Has philosophy ever clarified mathematics?

I've recently been reading some standard textbooks on the philosophy of mathematics, and I've become quite frustrated that (surely due to my own limitations) I don't seem to be gleaning any ...
19
votes
8answers
6k views

Why have mathematicians used differential equations to model nature instead of difference equations

Ever since Newton invented Calculus, mathematicians have been using differential equations to model natural phenomena. And they have been very successful in doing such. Yet, they could have been just ...
5
votes
3answers
296 views

A. Markov's papers?

A. Markov published several papers on his chains, starting in 1906, so it is written, in the journal: (1) Извѣстія Физико-математического общества при Казанском университете I am surprised by the ...