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

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51
votes
12answers
9k views

Logic in mathematics and philosophy

What are the relations between logic as an area of (modern) philosophy and mathematical logic. The world "modern" refers to 20th century and later, and I am curious mainly about the second half of ...
37
votes
18answers
5k views

What are some deep theorems, and why are they considered deep?

All mathematicians are used to thinking that certain theorems are deep, and we would probably all point to examples such as Dirichlet's theorem on primes in arithmetic progressions, the prime number ...
3
votes
1answer
785 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 ...
43
votes
4answers
3k views

History of “without loss of generality”

"Without loss of generality" is a standard in the mathematical lexicon, and I am writing to ask if anyone knows where the expression was popularized. (The idea has been around since antiquity, I'm ...
-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 ...
49
votes
2answers
911 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 ...
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 ...
26
votes
6answers
6k views

A question regarding a claim of V. I. Arnold

In his Huygens and Barrow, Newton and Hooke, Arnold mentions a notorious teaser that, in his opinion, "modern" mathematicians are not capable of solving quickly. Then, he adds that the exception that ...
18
votes
14answers
2k views

Insightful books about elementary mathematics

What are some books that discuss elementary mathematical topics ('school mathematics'), like arithmetic, basic non-abstract algebra, plane & solid geometry, trigonometry, etc, in an insightful ...
57
votes
35answers
6k views

Books about history of recent mathematics

I draw on this question to ask something that has always been a pet peeve of mine. It is very easy to find books about the history of mathematics, much less so if one wants books about the recent (say ...
24
votes
1answer
1k views

more on “Transalgebraic Theories” (a 19th century yoga)?

Among the talks at occasion of the Galois Bicentennial, one is about "Transalgebraic Theories". Unfortunately I found only this article describing that fascinating idea as " an extremely powerful ...
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 ...
7
votes
2answers
248 views

Finiteness as a motivation for compactness

Another history question, and I am not sure if I will get any answers. (If anyone knows of a good history of math list to use for this question I would be happy for any tips. The one I used to post to ...
0
votes
1answer
242 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)?
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 "$a$ ...
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 ...
15
votes
19answers
18k views

Good books on problem solving / math olympiad

Hello, I would want all book tips you could think of regarding Problem solving and books in general, in elementary mathematics, with a certain flavour for "advanced problem solving". An example would ...
12
votes
0answers
239 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 ...
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 ...
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. ...
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 ...
8
votes
9answers
1k views

Examples where adding complexity made a problem simpler

I can think of a few situations in math where a problem becomes easier or an object becomes simpler when some complexity is added. Examples: $S^n$ is never contractible, but $S^{\infty}$ is. The ...
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 ...
32
votes
2answers
4k views

How did “normal” come to mean “perpendicular”?

How and when did the word "normal" acquire this meaning? When I first thought of this, I couldn't really come up with any explanation that wasn't complete speculation -- pretty much all I was able to ...
36
votes
3answers
1k views

Why aren't fields called “bodies” instead?

The discrepancy regarding the names of commutative division algebras in German and English has always startled me. In English they are called fields, whereas their original German name is Körper ...
132
votes
36answers
35k 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 ...
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 ...
39
votes
4answers
4k views

Origin of terms “flag”, “flag manifold”, “flag variety”?

These terms have become common in Lie theory and related algebraic geometry and combinatorics, as seen in many questions posted on MO, but it's unclear to me where they first came into use. Probably ...
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 ...
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 ...
5
votes
4answers
843 views

Which Bianchi identity is due to Bianchi (or not, since it might be due to Ricci (according to Levi-Civita (according to MO))) or vice versa?

wikipedia doesn't say, nor my Berger Panorama book (but I might google Levi-Civita to get rid of one level of brackets) and the library is far (actually not, but it has German Schließungszeiten and I ...
25
votes
2answers
1k views

The work of E. Artin and F. K. Schmidt on (what are now called) the Weil conjectures.

I was reading Dieudonne's "On the history of the Weil conjectures" and found two things that surprised me. Dieudonne makes some assertions about the work of Artin and Schmidt which are no doubt ...
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 ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the history of the Y-combinator?

Inspired by the comments to this question, I wonder if someone can explain the history of the fixed point combinator (often called the Y combinator) in lambda calculus. Where did it first appear? ...
24
votes
6answers
3k views

In “splendid isolation”

While browsing the Net for some articles related to the history of the Whittaker-Shannon sampling theorem, so important to our digital world today, I came across this passage by H. D. Luke in The ...
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
343 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
50
votes
6answers
7k views

Is the boundary $\partial S$ analogous to a derivative?

Without prethought, I mentioned in class once that the reason the symbol $\partial$ is used to represent the boundary operator in topology is that its behavior is akin to a derivative. But after ...
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, ...
54
votes
31answers
34k views

Why do we teach calculus students the derivative as a limit?

I'm not teaching calculus right now, but I talk to someone who does, and the question that came up is why emphasize the $h \to 0$ definition of a derivative to calculus students? Something a teacher ...