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

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68
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22answers
7k views

Fields of mathematics that were dormant for a long time until someone revitalized them

I thought that the closed question here could be modified to a very interesting question (at least as far as big-list type questions go). Can people name examples of fields of mathematics that were ...
22
votes
0answers
380 views

Next steps on formal proof of classification of finite simple groups

While people are steaming ahead on finessing the proof of the classification of finite simple groups (CFSG), we have a formal proof in Coq of one of the first major components: the Feit-Thompson ...
15
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1answer
940 views

The list of problems for Grothendieck's thesis

Is the list of open problems which were given by Dieudonne and Schwartz to Grothendieck for his thesis published somewhere? I know a quotation of Dieudonne that the problems concerned duality theory ...
11
votes
2answers
761 views

Describe the desired features of a “Mathematics Colloquium”?

I'm now a member of my department's colloquium committee. Our task is to make a great colloquium series. I thought that the first step would be to come up with an appropriate definition of ...
59
votes
15answers
6k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
146 views

Blow-up as polar coordinates?

While doing some explicit calculations involving a blow-up of the plane in a point, I realised what I was doing was basically writing things in polar coordinates. Somewhat astonished that I hadn't ...
44
votes
19answers
6k views

Mathematicians whose works were criticized by contemporaries but became widely accepted later

Gauss famously discarded Abel's proof that an algebraic equation of degree five or more cannot have a general solution (Abel himself had rejected divergent series as the work of the devil). Cantor's ...
146
votes
36answers
39k 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 ...
20
votes
1answer
910 views

What is $\infty^6$?

The title of this question may make you want to close it immediately, but bear with me a moment. In several older mathematics papers (early 20th century) I have seen statements such as The ...
12
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4answers
2k views

What are hypergroups and hyperrings good for?

I came across the concept of a hyperring in two recent papers by Connes and Consani (From monoids to hyperstructures: in search of an absolute arithmetic and The hyperring of adèle classes). It's a ...
1
vote
0answers
92 views

First to note the relation between Stasheff polytopes (associahedra) and compositional inversion?

In my answer to MO-Q: Enumerative geometry and nonlinear waves, I outline the relation between the refined face polynomials of the Stasheff polytopes (associahedra) and the partition polynomials for ...
14
votes
2answers
735 views

Origin of the term “Diophantine equation”

It seems that the term "Diophantine equation" has been around at least since the second half of the 19th century, since the historian Hermann Hankel writes (polemically) in the chapter on Diophantus ...
11
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0answers
244 views

Continuous extension of Riemann maps and the Caratheodory-Torhorst Theorem

If $G\subsetneq\mathbb{C}$ is a simply-connected plane domain, then by the Riemann mapping theorem there is a conformal isomorphism $\newcommand{\D}{\mathbb{D}}\varphi:\D\to G$, where $\D$ is the unit ...
41
votes
4answers
1k views

How did Cole factor $2^{67}-1$ in 1903

I just heard a This American Life episode which recounted the famous anecdote about Frank Nelson Cole factoring $N:=2^{67}-1$ as $193707721 \times 761838257287$. There doesn't seem to be a historical ...
52
votes
5answers
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 ...
19
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18answers
4k views

Examples of conjectures that were widely believed to be true but later proved false

It seems to me that almost all conjectures (hypotheses) that were widely believed by mathematicians to be true were proved true later, if they ever got proved. Are there any notable exceptions?
18
votes
5answers
884 views

Historical use of figures in geometry

I was surprised to learn from John Stillwell's comment in answer to the question, "Can the unsolvability of quintics be seen in the geometry of the icosahedron?", that There is not a single ...
60
votes
63answers
9k views

Old books still used

It's a commonplace to state that while other sciences (like biology) may always need the newest books, we mathematicians also use to use older books. While this is a qualitative remark, I would like ...
10
votes
2answers
456 views

History of Tarski's problems on free groups

As is known, Tarski posed his questions about first-order theories of non-abelian free groups around 1945. However, the questions were not published in his papers or books. What is the original ...
66
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25answers
7k views

Modern Mathematical Achievements Accessible to Undergraduates

While there is tremendous progress happening in mathematics, most of it is just accessible to specialists. In many cases, the proofs of great results are both long and use difficult techniques. Even ...
6
votes
1answer
349 views

Who introduced the concept of topological mixing?

I am writing an introduction and I want to know who introduced the concept of topological mixing?
7
votes
2answers
695 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 ...
16
votes
1answer
359 views

What sort of models did Bolyai and Lobachevsky use to demonstrate the consistency of their models of non-Euclidean Geometry?

As is well-known, in the 1820s both Bolyai and Lobachevsky showed, at long last, the independence of the Parallel Postulate from the rest of the axioms of Euclidean geometry by developing what we now ...
8
votes
1answer
298 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
782 views

Who was Hermann Künneth?

Question as in the title: Who was Hermann Künneth? Where can I find some biographical information beyond what is available on Wikipedia? The well-known Künneth formula, for example in the form of ...
55
votes
13answers
10k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
156 views

Non-Pythagorean proof for the square root of 2 and solution to YBC7289 [closed]

My name is J. Frederic Teubner I am an independent researcher. I wish to publish a proof for the non-Pythagorean solution to the Babylonian tablet YBC7289 and am currently inquiring as to whether or ...
3
votes
1answer
142 views

What kind of role has Functional Analysis played in Signal Processing? [closed]

Does it serve mainly as a narration or is there any substantive consequence which might not be derived without tools of functional analysis?
59
votes
7answers
9k 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
147 views

Reference to forcing with a sigma ideal $\cong$ Cohen forcing

This is a historical question: Who was the first person to notice the following? If $V \models \kappa$ is measurable and $P$ adds $\kappa$ Cohen reals, then in $V^P$, letting $\hat{I}$ to be the ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

When did the term “Lie group” first appear?

Does anyone know who was the first to coin the term "Lie group"? The following thesis from 1928 suggests that the term was already in use by that time: "Systems of Two Differential Equations from the ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is the identity element of a group denoted by $e$?

The question was asked by a student, and I did not have a ready answer. I can think of the German word ``Einheit'', but since in German that is not how the identity element of a group is called, I ...
36
votes
3answers
2k views

What was the relative importance of FLT vs. higher reciprocity laws in Kummer's invention of algebraic number theory?

This question is inspired in part by this answer of Bill Dubuque, in which he remarks that the fairly common belief that Kummer was motivated by FLT to develop his theory of cyclotomic number fields ...
4
votes
1answer
467 views

What is the advantage of inverting elliptic integrals?

In the case of the circle I can hardly make any conclusions from the integral $(1)$, most of the theorems come from geometrical considerations. It's not clear how to prove periodicity from this ...
15
votes
5answers
3k views

Fermat numbers and the infinitude of primes

Wonder whether any of you guys know why it is that the proof of the infinitude of primes that is based on the coprimality of any pair of (distinct) Fermat numbers is commonly attributed to Pólya. In ...
96
votes
27answers
13k views

Extremely messy proofs

Currently in my undergraduate courses I am being taught how to set up various machinery using slick, short proofs and then how to apply that machinery. What I am not being taught, largely, is what ...
130
votes
132answers
29k views

Fundamental Examples

It is not unusual that a single example or a very few shape an entire mathematical discipline. Can you give examples for such examples? (One example, or few, per post, please) I'd love to learn about ...
3
votes
0answers
251 views

Galois correspondence subgroups/subsystems

In this paper (1998) by M. Izumi, R. Longo, S. Popa, there is the following result (page 49) on compact groups: Lemma 3.16. Let $G$ be a compact group and $Rep(G)$ the category of finite ...
25
votes
21answers
6k views

What are some mathematical concepts that were (pretty much) created from scratch and do not owe a debt to previous work?

Almost any mathematical concept has antecedents; it builds on, or is related to, previously known concepts. But are there concepts that owe little or nothing to previous work? The only example I know ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Original manuscript of Archimedes' cattle problem

Wikipedia states that [Archimedes' cattle problem] was discovered by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in a Greek manuscript containing a poem of forty-four lines, in the Herzog August Library in ...
47
votes
19answers
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 ...
12
votes
4answers
928 views

“Epicycles” (Ptolemy style) in math theory?

By analogy: The epicycles of Ptolemy explained the known facts in the sun system and in this sense were not "wrong". But they distracted from a better insight. From another viewpoint, everything fell ...
19
votes
1answer
763 views

Steinhaus's Easter Egg Problem

The following is the text of Steinhaus's so-called Easter egg problem. According to this article of Roman Duda, this was recorded in the New Scottish Book around Easter 1955 and "Steinhaus offered an ...
13
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6answers
1k views

The origins of forcing in mathematical logic and other branches of mathematics

As everyone knows, forcing was created by Cohen to answer questions in set theory. Question 1. What are the first applications of set theoretic forcing in other branches of mathematical logic, like ...
16
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7answers
2k views

Are there any Algebraic Geometry Theorems that were proved using Combinatorics?

I'm collaborating with some algebraic geometers in a paper, and when writing the introduction I mentioned the interaction of Combinatorics and Algebraic Geometry, and gave some examples like the ...
47
votes
4answers
3k views

Did Gelfand's theory of commutative Banach algebras influence algebraic geometers?

Guillemin and Sternberg wrote the following in 1987 in a short article called "Some remarks on I.M. Gelfand's works" accompanying Gelfand's Collected Papers, Volume I: The theory of commutative ...
30
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4answers
3k views

What, precisely, does Klein's Erlangen Program state?

People write that the Erlangen Program is a "program" (like the "Langlands Program"), i.e. a series of related conjectures, which in this case were all solved. There are various intuitive accounts, ...
25
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7answers
1k views

Concise model of modern fiat money and its non-conservation

A confession: I have never really understood the basic model of fiat money and central banking, by which a central bank controls the money supply. By the standards of someone trained in mathematics, ...
23
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4answers
867 views

Communal problem books

A certain class of books is defined as follows: (1) the book was kept for years in a cafe or mathematics library; (2) the primary contents are research problems and comments, handwritten by resident ...
12
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3answers
2k views

Did Grothendieck write about modular forms?

This question might be astoundingly naive, because my understanding of modular forms is so meek. It occurred to me that the reason I was never able to penetrate into the field of modular forms, ...