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

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Why do we study symplectic geometry? [on hold]

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 ...
3
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1answer
150 views

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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0answers
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When and why did this happen: ${1,2,3} \neq {1,3,2}$? [on hold]

Formerly, there was a clear distinction between $(1,2,3)$ and $\{1,2,3\}$, and only the former indicated order. Now, in Mathematica and elsewhere, $\{1,2,3\} \neq \{1,3,2\}$. Also, a sequence was ...
83
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29answers
8k views

Examples of theorems misapplied to non-mathematical contexts

For something I'm writing -- I'm interested in examples of bad arguments which involve the application of mathematical theorems in non-mathematical contexts. E.G. folks who make theological arguments ...
64
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56answers
14k views

Pseudonyms of famous mathematicians

Many mathematicians know that Lewis Carroll was quite a good mathematician, who wrote about logic (paradoxes) and determinants. He found an expansion formula, which bears his real name (Charles ...
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3answers
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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 ...
3
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1answer
166 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 ...
3
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1answer
404 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 ...
12
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1answer
503 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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2answers
271 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 ...
1
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1answer
192 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 ...
42
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31answers
7k views

Trichotomies in mathematics

Added. Thanks to all who participated! Let me humbly apologize to those who were annoyed (quite understandably) by this thread, deeming it nothing more than an exercise in futility. If you thought the ...
23
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1answer
586 views

Biholomophic non-Algebraically Isomorphic Varieties

Recently, when writing a review for MathSciNet, the following question arose: Is it true that two smooth complex varieties that are biholomorphic are algebraically isomorphic? The converse is true ...
27
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16answers
3k views

What are some examples of narrowly missed discoveries in the history of mathematics?

What are the examples of some mathematicians coming very close to a very promising theory or a correct proof of a big conjecture but not making or missing the last step?
6
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1answer
465 views

Where was the arithmetic zeta function of a scheme first defined?

Let $X$ be an arithmetic scheme, that is, a scheme of finite type over the integers. We denote the set of closed points of $X$ by $|X|$. For every $x\in|X|$, write $N(x)$ for the cardinality of the ...
40
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14answers
6k views

Does any research mathematics involve solving functional equations?

This is a somewhat frivolous question, so I won't mind if it gets closed. One of the categories of Olympiad-style problems (e.g. at the IMO) is solving various functional equations, such as those ...
6
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1answer
624 views

Fibonacci = Leonardo Pisano?

Leonardo of Pisa is best known as Fibonacci; various stories found in books and on the web claim that the name Fibonacci was invented by Edouard Lucas or Guillaume Libri in the 19th century, and that ...
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6answers
2k views

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, ...
6
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2answers
446 views

English translation of Lambert's Theorie der Parallellinien?

Does anyone know if there is an available (published or unpublished) English translation of Johann Lambert's Theorie der Parallellinien? I was able to find it online in German by way of the ...
60
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15answers
7k views

Mathematical research published in the form of poems

The article Friedrich Wille: Galerkins Lösungsnäherungen bei monotonen Abbildungen, Math. Z. 127 (1972), no. 1, 10-16 is written in the form of a lengthy poem, in a style similar to that of the ...
9
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0answers
669 views

Has anyone pursued Frege's idea of numbers as second-order concepts?

Gottlob Frege was a pivotal figure in the history of mathematical logic. He gave an analysis of numbers that proceeded along roughly the following lines, in his books "The Foundations of Arithmetic" ...
11
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2answers
717 views

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 ...
256
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72answers
95k views

Video lectures of mathematics courses available online for free

It can be difficult to learn mathematics on your own from textbooks, and I often wish universities videotaped their mathematics courses and distributed them for free online. Fortunately, some ...
179
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36answers
48k views

Widely accepted mathematical results that were later shown wrong?

I wonder if there are any examples in the history of mathematics of a mathematical proof that was initially reviewed and widely accepted as valid, only to be disproved a significant amount of time ...
40
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15answers
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Abstract Thought vs Calculation

Jeremy Avigad and Erich Reck in their remarkable historical paper "Clarifying the nature of the infinite: the development of metamathematics and proof theory" claim that one of the factors of becoming ...
5
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1answer
373 views

First mention of the fundamental bigroupoid of a space?

The fundamental bigroupoid $\Pi_2(X)$ of a space $X$ was independently described by Hardie, Kamps and Kieboom (paywall) and Stevenson (arXiv) around the year 2000. HKK cite Baez-Dolan's seminal HDA0, ...
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4answers
2k views

In what ways did Leibniz's philosophy foresee modern mathematics?

Leibniz was a noted polymath who was deeply interested in philosophy as well as mathematics, among other things. From my mathematical readings I have the impression that Leibniz's stature as a ...
3
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2answers
349 views

Archive of the Work of J Sutherland Frame

Does anyone know of the existence of an archive of the work of J Sutherland Frame? The Briscoe Center for American History maintains about 100 archives of American mathematics and I have found the ...
94
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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 ...
2
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1answer
641 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?
10
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1answer
375 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 ...
9
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1answer
347 views

Analogy between Lagrange's Theorem and Rank-Nullity Theorem?

One can view view Lagrange's Theorem $$|G/H|=|G|/|H|$$ and the Rank-Nullity Theorem $$\dim(V/U)=\dim(V)-\dim(U)$$ as directly analogous. Does anyone know a high-level explanation of this analogy? I ...
241
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21answers
30k views

Thinking and Explaining

How big a gap is there between how you think about mathematics and what you say to others? Do you say what you're thinking? Please give either personal examples of how your thoughts and words ...
102
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6answers
8k views

Source and context of $\frac{22}{7} - \pi = \int_0^1 (x-x^2)^4 dx/(1+x^2)$?

Possibly the most striking proof of Archimedes's inequality $\pi < 22/7$ is an integral formula for the difference: $$ \frac{22}{7} - \pi = \int_0^1 (x-x^2)^4 \frac{dx}{1+x^2}, $$ where the ...
36
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9answers
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What do named “tricks” share?

There are a number of theorems or lemmas or mathematical ideas that come to be known as eponymous tricks, a term which in this context is in no sense derogatory. Here is a list of 10 such tricks (the ...
21
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1answer
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Arnold on Newton's anagram

Arnold, in his paper The underestimated Poincaré, in Russian Math. Surveys 61 (2006), no. 1, 1–18 wrote the following: ``...Puiseux series, the theory which Newton, hundreds of years before ...
12
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1answer
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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 $$ \zeta(s_1, s_2)=\sum_{n>m \geq 1} \frac{1}{n^{s_1}m^{s_2}}, \qquad s_1 \geq 2, \quad s_2 \geq 1 $$ ...
59
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22answers
9k views

Examples of major theorems with very hard proofs that have NOT dramatically improved over time

This question complement a previous MO question: Examples of theorems with proofs that have dramatically improved over time. I am looking for a list of Major theorems in mathematics whose proofs ...
60
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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 ...
30
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1answer
926 views

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 ...
53
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20answers
7k views

Rediscovery of lost mathematics

Archimedes (ca. 287-212BC) described what are now known as the 13 Archimedean solids in a lost work, later mentioned by Pappus. But it awaited Kepler (1619) for the 13 semiregular polyhedra to be ...
39
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14answers
5k views

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 ...
2
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2answers
177 views

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 ...
16
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0answers
367 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 ...
93
votes
6answers
9k views

what mistakes did the Italian algebraic geometers actually make?

It's "well-known" that the 19th century Italian school of algebraic geometry made great progress but also started to flounder due to lack of rigour, possibly in part due to the fact that foundations ...
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9answers
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Was the early calculus inconsistent?

This question does NOT concern the RIGOR, or lack thereof, of the early calculus. Rather the question is of its CONSISTENCY. George Berkeley wrote in 1734 with reference to the early calculus that ...
3
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1answer
369 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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1answer
2k views

Euler's mathematics in terms of modern theories?

Some aspects of Euler's work were formalized in terms of modern infinitesimal theories by Laugwitz, McKinzie, Tuckey, and others. Referring to the latter, G. Ferraro claims that "one can see in ...
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2answers
541 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 ...
0
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1answer
466 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 ...