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

learn more… | top users | synonyms

21
votes
3answers
485 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
164 views
+100

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 ...
50
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
votes
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
864 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
443 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 ...
65
votes
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
324 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
657 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
347 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
277 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
778 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
150 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
486 views

Define “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 ...
3
votes
1answer
130 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
8k 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
141 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
466 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 ...
93
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 ...
129
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
249 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 ...
46
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
897 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
747 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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
4answers
865 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
votes
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, ...
87
votes
20answers
11k views

Mathematical habits of thought and action which would be of use to non-mathematicians

Once again I come to MO for help with something I'm writing for the public. Which habits of mathematicians -- aspects of the way we approach problems, the way we argue, the way we function as a ...
26
votes
6answers
2k views

Means of Promoting Mathematics in Young Countries!

We all know mathematics is life, this question is for Mankind. It's mathoverflow here when some parts of the world we have mathunderflow! I think we can do something through ideas. A similar ...
21
votes
1answer
951 views

Homeomorphism historically: When did it reach its modern formulation?

Q. When did the notion of homeomorphism reach its modern formulation as a bicontinuous bijection, i.e., a continuous bijection between topological spaces whose inverse is also continuous? ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

Famous examples of PhD advisors younger than their student [closed]

What are the most famous examples of PhD advisors in mathematics, younger than their student? (if possible put the date of birth and/or the difference in age).
78
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
37
votes
1answer
2k views

Did Bourbaki write a text on algebraic geometry?

Certainly Bourbaki never wrote an introduction to algebraic geometry: we would have heard about it, right?
5
votes
1answer
650 views

Cricket and the Hardy-Littlewod maximal function

I'v read somewhere that one motivation for Hardy to define his maximal function is the game of cricket. But I can't see how they are related. Could anyone provide some more information on their ...
12
votes
2answers
546 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 ...
38
votes
32answers
6k 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
703 views

Brandt's definition of groupoids (1926)

The definition of a category is usually attributed to Mac Lane and Eilenberg (1945). What seems to be less known is that the german mathematician Heinrich Brandt has developed the notion of a groupoid ...
0
votes
1answer
554 views

The most cited paper in Mathematics [closed]

I am wondering about the most cited papers/books in Mathematics. I always had the impression that the number of citations in the mathematical community is several orders of magnitude below the number ...