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

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History of Cauchy-Euler Equations

As I teach a class in ODE, and following this post and Rota's paper, I wandered what is the history of the research of - $\sum\limits_{k=0}^n a_k x^k y^{(k)}(x) = g(x),\quad \forall ...
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Have there been any claims of mathematical breakthroughs while in altered states of consciousness?

This certainly is a related question: Have you solved problems in your sleep? Has anyone seriously attempted to make a similar claim for other altered states, besides dreaming? I know the claim has ...
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What are the sense and reference of the propositions $R \notin R$, $R \in R$, where $R=\{x \mid x \notin x\}$ in Frege's Grundgesetze?

In the paper, Aldo Antonelli and Robert May, Frege's new science, Notre Dame J. Form. Log. 41 (2000), no. 3, 242–-270, MR 1943495. the authors give the following quote of Frege, from his paper ...
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Pasch axiom and Pythagorean field condition?

I am looking for a reference for the claim that the Pasch axiom is equivalent to the Pythagorean field condition, and with respect to what base theory this should be true. Since posting the question, ...
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Historical perspectives on CAT(0) spaces

Does there exist a survey on the early developments of CAT(k) spaces, with the first motivations and the first problems considered? I looked at Bridson and Haefliger's book On metric spaces of ...
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Early examples of problems that are easier in high dimension

In many areas of mathematics, there are problems that admit a natural formulation in any dimension. It often happens that such a problem is easier to solve in dimension $n>k$ as compared to ...
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Why do we study symplectic geometry? [closed]

What is the motivation behind studying smooth manifolds with a non-degenerate closed two-form? The subject certainly originated from physics, but is there a deeper reason for why it is still an ...
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180 views

Fréchet L-Spaces

According to the paper The emergence of open sets, closed sets, and limit points in analysis and topology famous mathematician Maurice Fréchet who introduced the concept of metric spaces has also ...
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Nelson's proof of Liouville's theorem

The paper "A proof of Liouville's theorem" by E. Nelson, published in 1961 in Proceedings of AMS, contains just one paragraph, giving a (now) standard proof that every bounded harmonic function in ...
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421 views

origin of analogy “primes as the atoms of number theory/ arithmetic”

a math student recently challenged me on the old comparison/ analogy of prime numbers to "the atoms of number theory or arithmetic" and then was wondering the origin of the phrase. where does this ...
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275 views

The Zeta Function Before Riemann [duplicate]

Leonhard Euler studied the function that is now known as the Riemann zeta function. I have not found the notation $\zeta$ in any of the works of any mathematicians prior to Bernhard Riemann's paper On ...
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203 views

Have some works by Émile Borel ever been translated from French to English or another foreign language?

I plan to submit a couple of questions around Émile Borel's works in probability theory to MO. In this scope, I'd like to know if the following works have ever been translated from French to English ...
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Gauss proof of fundamental theorem of algebra

My question concerns the argument given by Gauss in his "geometric proof" of the fundamental theorem of Algebra. At one point he says (I am reformulating) : A branch (a component) of any algebraic ...
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277 views

Proof of formula for $\pi$ [closed]

The number $\pi$ can be expressed as $\pi=\lim_{n\to\infty} \frac{n\sqrt[n]{-1}-n}{\sqrt{-1}}$ or more poetically $\pi=\frac{\infty\sqrt[\infty]{-1}-\infty}{\sqrt{-1}}$. Here we choose the principal ...
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652 views

Reference for Connes Bourbaki membership or otherwise

Alain Connes being a leading French mathematician today one could ask whether he is a member of the Bourbaki group. Is there a published reference that would either refute or confirm this?
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381 views

What was a cusp to Hurwitz in 1892?

Let $d\in\mathbb{N}$ be squarefree. Let $\mathcal{O}_d$ be the ring of integers of $\mathbb{Q}(\sqrt{-d})$. Let $\Gamma_d=\mathrm{PSL}_2(\mathcal{O}_d)$. Let $\mathcal{H}^3$ be the upper half-space ...
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Looking for a source for Intended Interpretation

Hao Wang writes: "The originally intended, or standard, interpretation takes the ordinary nonnegative integers $\{0, 1, 2, \ldots \}$ as the domain, the symbols $0$ and $1$ as denoting zero and one, ...
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535 views

Have Grothendieck's notes in Montpellier already been investigated?

Grothendieck, who passed away on November 13, 2014, left a huge amount (around 20.000 sheets) of personal notes in the University of Montpellier that he thought he was the only one to be able to ...
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What did Euler do with multiple zeta values?

When reading about multiple zeta values, I often find the claim that the case of length two $$ \zeta(s_1, s_2)=\sum_{n>m \geq 1} \frac{1}{n^{s_1}m^{s_2}}, \qquad s_1 \geq 2, \quad s_2 \geq 1 $$ ...
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Wanted, dead or alive: Have you seen this curve? (circular variant of cardioid)

Let me start with the context. This is definitely not a "research level" question, but I'm hoping that the research community will be able to settle for me whether or not a particular construction ...
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377 views

History of the functor of points

Until now, I thought the functor of points approach was introduced by Grothendieck at the 1973 Buffalo seminar. However, in this note by Lawvere the author writes: "I myself had learned the ...
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Backgrounds of the p-Laplacian Operator

Motivation I encountered the following partial differential equation (PDE) in a mathematical paper $$\begin{array}{} u_{tt}+\Delta^2u-\nabla\cdot\left(|\nabla u|^{p-2}\nabla u\right)-\Delta ...
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372 views

Who is the original author of this simple paradoxical decomposition?

Paradoxical decompositions of sets usually require the axiom of choice; Hausdorff or Banach-Tarski are well-known examples. A paradoxical decomposition of a point set without the axiom of choice has ...
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470 views

The $\zeta-$word [closed]

I was wondering about classical notations in number theory. I will not ask here about special functions in general but about the more ubiquitous number theory functions. That which made me wonder ...
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551 views

Who was the first to discover that the curvature of an embedded surface is the product of the principal curvatures?

The invention of intrinsic differential geometry is usually attributed to Gauss in the context of his theorema egregium but the notion of the curvature of an embedded surface existed before. Who was ...
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When do Theorems (or Algorithms or Methods) Become Celebrated? [closed]

I recently noticed that certain theorems (e.g. Tutte's 1-factor theorem or, Edmond's Blossom algorithm) are attributed celebrated. A quick search on the internet yields further examples: ...
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397 views

What are “Artin fractions”?

The German Wikipedia entry for Ernst Witt https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Witt has a photo of his grave in Hamburg. The bottom part has a visible text "Artin Brueche" (Artin fractions) but the ...
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Do mathematical objects disappear?

I am asking this question starting from two orders of considerations. Firstly, we can witness, considering the historical development of several sciences, that certain physical entities ...
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130 views

Historical refererences for Castelnuovo-Mumford regularity

Does anyone know a good reference to understand the historical background of Castelnuovo-Mumford regularity? I know the backgound for the modern commutative-algebra approach (using free graded ...
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Why the Castelnuovo exact sequence is named after Castelnuovo

I have seen variations of the following exact sequence referred throughout the literature as the Castelnuovo sequence: $$0\longrightarrow \mathscr I_{X:H}(-d)\longrightarrow \mathscr ...
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History of Mathematical Notation

I would like to see a simple example which shows how mathematical notation were evolve in time and space. Say, consider the formula $$(x+2)^2=x^2+4{\cdot}x+4.$$ If I understand correctly, Franciscus ...
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804 views

Where did the term “additive energy” originate?

A fundamental object in modern additive combinatorics and harmonic analysis is additive energy. Given a subset $A$ of (say) an abelian group $G$ the additive energy of $A$ is defined to be the ...
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Congruent numbers and elliptic curves

Who first explicitly stated the link between $N$ being a congruent number and the existence of rational points of infinite order on $y^2=x(x^2-N^2)$?
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Motivation for cyclotomic units

I am wondering the original motivation for considering cyclotomic units. Maybe one can rephrase the question as: Why did people initially consider such units in $\mathbb{Q}(\zeta_p)$ specially? ...
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199 views

How to divide a square into three similar rectangles

Preparing some exercises for my High School pupils I came across this question: How can you tile a square into three similar (ie., same shape, different size) rectangles? With a bit of algebra it can ...
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393 views

Examples of abstractions that did *not* turn out to be useful [closed]

I’ve read (but cannot find any reference now) that new abstract mathematical concepts like set theory and – not too long ago – category theory were in their time often considered too abstract to be ...
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What are some very important papers published in non-top journals?

There has already been a question about important papers that were initially rejected. Many of the answers were very interesting. The question is here. My concern in this question is slightly ...
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What was Hilbert's view of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems?

According to Solomon Feferman, in his slide presentation "Three Problems for Mathematics", Hilbert wrote (in regards to Gödel's second incompleteness theorem): ...the end goal [is] to establish as ...
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1answer
456 views

Two Vinogradovs? Is one the son of the other? [closed]

Forgive me for my ignorance, but I'm very surprised to learn that there are two Vinogradovs, both famous in the field of analytic number theory. Guessing from their names and the Russian naming ...
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441 views

Hahn-Banach theorem with convex majorant

At least 99% of books on functional analysis state and prove the Hahn-Banach theorem in the following form: Let $p:X\to \mathbb R$ be sublinear on a real vector space, $L$ a subspace of $X$, and ...
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585 views

First formulation of the Dedekind and Hasse-Weil conjectures

I'm looking for the original statement of two important conjectures in number theory concerning L-functions. I'm particularly interested in pinning down the year in which they were first formulated: ...
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Hilbert's (cancelled) 24th problem

Hilbert's 23 problems, ten of which were presented at the 1900 ICM in Paris, are too famous for any mathematician to not know. If one reads the descriptions of the problems in Hilbert's paper, one ...
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When did mathematicians begin to use the letter x to denote unknown values? [duplicate]

When did mathematicians begin to use the letter x to denote unknown values ? Gérard Lang
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789 views

How and why did mathematicians develop spin-manifolds in differential geometry?

First of all, I am neither a physicist nor a mathematician. And I am afraid that mathoverflow is not a suitable place for my question, but having asked similar questions on math SE it is obvious that ...
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321 views

'Updated' book in the same spirit as Dieudonné's Panorama des mathématiques pures

Today a colleague of mine asked me if I knew of any "more modern version" of J. Dieudonné's Panorama des mathématiques pures. Le choix bourbachique. The very first thing that instantly came to my ...
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History of spectral methods to the study of real analytic $GL_2$-Eisenstein series

I'm trying to sort out the history of spectral methods in the study of real analytic $GL_2$-Eisenstein series. From what I read so far, I would say that the subject was really kicked off by the ...
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History of set-class distinction

I have two questions concerning the history of set theory, both related to the distinction between the notion of a set and the notion of a class: Who was the first mathematician to make this ...
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Why do some people adamantly insist on 'toposes' instead of 'topoi'? [closed]

I've heard that several category and topos theorists, first and foremost Johnstone (see the comments to this question) adamantly insist on 'toposes' as the plural of 'topos'. I was wondering whether ...
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744 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 ...
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Can I find Fermat's complete works anywhere?

I admire the mathematician very much and want to look at his writings. Is there anywhere in book or web form that has a collection of his writings?