Tagged Questions

Questions asking for the intuition behind some definition, conjecture, proof etc. In other words, questions designed to improve or to acquire understanding on a conceptual or intuitive level, as opposed to on a technical or formal level. When asking such a question it can be helpful to include a ...

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45
votes
5answers
6k views

What is sheaf cohomology intuitively?

What is sheaf cohomology intuitively? For local systems it is ordinary cohomology with twisted coefficients. But what if the sheaf in question is far from being constant? Can one still understand ...
13
votes
0answers
310 views

Why, and how badly, does the proof of “no percolation at the critical point in half-spaces” fail for full spaces?

The proof by Barsky et. al. that there is no percolation in half-spaces proceeds by a dynamic renormalization argument. The proof couples critical percolation in the half-space $\mathbb{H}^d$ with a ...
5
votes
7answers
1k views

Intuition on finite homotopy groups

As I have been studying algebraic topology, something that I found puzzling was the existence of finite homotopy groups. For instance, $\pi_{4}(S^{2})\cong\pi_{5}(S^{4})\cong\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$. I ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a twisted D-Module intuitively?

When I think about $\mathcal{D}$-Modules, I find it very often useful to envison them as vectorbundles endowed with a rule that decides whether a given section is flat. Or alternatively a notion of ...
28
votes
6answers
4k views

How is representation theory used in modular/automorphic forms?

There is certainly an abundance of advanced books on Galois representations and automorphic forms. What I'm wondering is more simple: What is the basic connection between modular forms and ...
2
votes
1answer
605 views

Taylor expansion to show that for Stratonovich stochastic calculus the chain rule takes the form of the classical one

As nobody seems to be able to give any kind of answer to that problem over there at math.stackexchange I post this question here: How can I show with a heuristic argument based on a Taylor expansion ...
1
vote
1answer
705 views

Hilbert Schmidt operators

I don't know much about the theory of Hilbert spaces but a research project has me working with them a little bit. In particular requiring an operator to be Hilbert-Schmidt is a recurring condition. ...
40
votes
7answers
3k views

Demystifying the Caratheodory Approach to Measurability

Nowadays, the usual way to extend a measure on an algebra of sets to a measure on a $\sigma$-algebra, the Caratheodory approach, is by using the outer measure $m^* $ and then taking the family of all ...
-8
votes
1answer
1k views

Parabolas everywhere!

There a books about the Pythagorean theorem, about the exponential function and even about the gamma constant. I haven't seen any decent book about parabolas yet... Think about it: they form the ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a reasonable finitary analogue of the statement that harmonic functions are smooth?

In my answer to this question on MU, I suggested that the OP think about the difference between real-differentiable and complex-differentiable functions by using a sort of finitary analogue. One way ...
12
votes
0answers
688 views

Seeing stacks in the Calculus of Functors

Recently I was told (by an algebraic geometer) that when algebraic geometers look at the Calculus of Functors, they think of stacks. When I look at the Calculus of Functors, I see a categorification ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

The unprecedented success of the “intersection” operator

You might think that the title is an overstatement of a well-known fact but it is the best title I can come up with for the wonders the intersection operator does in some fields of math. ...
0
votes
3answers
1k views

Intuitions/connections/examples for “eigen-*”

There are many concepts in mathematics that begin with the German word "eigen": eigenvector, eigenvalue, eigenspace, eigenstate, eigenfunction, eigensystem etc. (to name just the most important (?) ...
5
votes
1answer
599 views

Intuitive “proof” or explanation of a result in Friedman's urn

Let $g, r, a, b$ be positive integers. In Friedman's urn model we have an urn with $r$ red and $g$ green balls in it. In each step we take one ball out of urn, register its color and return it to the ...
41
votes
4answers
6k views

Zagier's one-sentence proof of Fermat's theorem.

Zagier has a very short proof ( MR1041893) for the fact that every prime number $p$ of the form $4k+1$ is the sum of two squares. The proof defines an involution of the set $S= \lbrace (x,y,z) \in ...
2
votes
2answers
396 views

Definition of and intuition for regular subdivisions of a polytope

I'm doing a research project that involves subdividing a product of simplices. Specifically, I'm looking at theorem 2.4 from this paper: math.sfsu.edu/federico/Articles/tropOMs.pdf which references ...
19
votes
5answers
3k views

Particle Physics and Representations of Groups

This question is asked from a point of complete ignorance of physics and the standard model. Every so often I hear that particles correspond to representations of certain Lie groups. For a person ...
15
votes
4answers
4k views

Intuition and/or visualisation of Ito integral/Ito's lemma

Riemann-sums can e.g. be very intuitively visualized by rectangles that approximate the area under the curve. See e.g. Wikipedia:Riemann sum The Ito integral has due to the unbounded total variation ...
4
votes
2answers
580 views

Intuition for the satellite of a functor

Occasionally in math I come across constructions or tools that are a bit convoluted. I can look at these constructions and see that they indeed perform the task they were made to do, but sometimes I ...
29
votes
4answers
2k views

Does anyone know an intuitive proof of the Birkhoff ergodic theorem?

For many standard, well-understood theorems the proofs have been streamlined to the point where you just need to understand the proof once and you remember the general idea forever. At this point I ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What part do arguments from authority play in mathematical reasoning?

In forming your answer you may choose to address any or all of the following aspects of the question: Descriptive. What part do arguments from authority actually play in mathematical reasoning? ...
30
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is there no Cayley's Theorem for rings?

Cayley's theorem makes groups nice: a closed set of bijections is a group and a group is a closed set of bijections- beautiful, natural and understandable canonically as symmetry. It is not so much a ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

Geometric interpretation of the fundamental groupoid

Motivation The common functors from topological spaces to other categories have geometric interpretations. For example, the fundamental group is how loops behave in the space, and higher homotopy ...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Geometric interpretation of group rings?

For a group $G$, is there an interpretation of $\mathbb C[G]$ as functions over some noncommutative space? If so, what does this space "look like"? What are its properties? How are they related to ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

Skellam distribution: Deep connection between Poisson distributions and Bessel function?

The probability mass function for the Skellam distribution for a count difference $k=n_1-n_2$ from two Poisson-distributed variables with means $\mu_1$ and $\mu_2$ is given by: $$ f(k;\mu_1,\mu_2)= ...
12
votes
9answers
4k views

Geometric imagination of differential forms

In order to explain to non-experts what is a vectorfield, one usually describes an assignemnt of an arrow to each point of space, and this works quite well, also when moving to manifolds (where a ...
72
votes
25answers
29k views

Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking

I once heard a joke (not a great one I'll admit...) about higher dimensional thinking that went as follows- An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are discussing how to visualise four ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Intuition for a formula that expresses the class number of an imaginary quadratic field by counting quadratic residues

If $p$ is a prime of the form $4n+3$, the class number $h$ of $Q[\sqrt{-p}]$ can be expressed using the number $V$ of quadratic residues and $N$ nonresidues in the interval $[1,\frac{p-1}{2}]$: If ...
5
votes
2answers
509 views

Gaining intuition for how submodules behave

I'm studying elementary commutative algebra this semester, largely following Atiyah-MacDonald. I often find myself in a situation where I'm interested in whether some property of an R-module M is ...
22
votes
7answers
3k views

Spectral graph theory: Interpretability of eigenvalues and -vectors

I thought "Wow!" when I learned that the eigenvector of the adjacency matrix of a cycle graph $C_n$ corresponding to the second largest eigenvalue gives the coordinates of the vertices when equally ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the physical meaning of a Lie algebra symmetry?

The physical meaning of a Lie group symmetry is clear: for example, if you have a quantum system whose states have values in some Hilbert space $H$, then a Lie group symmetry of the system means that ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

Why are normal crossing divisors nice?

This question is going to be extremely vague. It seems that wherever I go (especially about Grothendieck's circle of ideas) the higher-dimensional analogue of a curve minus a finite number of points ...
7
votes
2answers
566 views

A split short exact sequence of algebraic fundamental groups

If we have a variety, $X$, over a field, $k$, and $x$ is a geometric point of $X$, and let $\bar x$ be a geometric point of $X_{k^s} := X \times_k k^s$ above $x$ then we have the following short exact ...
6
votes
4answers
665 views

What is the intuitive meaning of star and box in a pure type system?

The systems of the λ-cube have the axiom $\star:\square$. I've listed a few meanings that the Curry-Howard isomorphism gives to $t : T$ below. What are the intuitive meanings of $\star$ and ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

why isn't the mobius band an algebraic line bundle?

When I hear the phrase "line bundle" the first thing that pops into my head is a mobius band. But this is a bad picture from an algebraic point of view since any line bundle on an affine variety is ...
17
votes
6answers
1k views

What can you do with a compact moduli space?

So sometime ago in my math education I discovered that many mathematicians were interested in moduli problems. Not long after I got the sense that when mathematicians ran across a non compact moduli ...
8
votes
4answers
700 views

Intuition behind existence of moduli space of stable curves

I'm not entirely sure that the title is what I'm looking for. What I'm really asking is for intuition as to why $\bar{\mathcal{M}_g}$ is the compactification of $\mathcal{M}_g$. I'm sure this is ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there good intution of the trace map?

I have never understood the trace map,not even after reading Geometric Interpretation of Trace. The problem with many answers in the above discussion is the geometric intuition does not apply to other ...
24
votes
7answers
8k views

What is the exterior derivative intuitively?

Hi, actually I have several related questions, not worth opening different threads: What is the of the exterior derivative intuitively? What is its geometric meaning? A possible answer I know is, ...
44
votes
15answers
11k views

Most 'unintuitive' application of the Axiom of Choice?

It is well-known that the axiom of choice is equivalent to many other assumptions, such as the well-ordering principle, Tychonoff's theorem, and the fact that every vector space has a basis. Even ...
22
votes
6answers
5k views

What is the difference between homology and cohomology?

In intuitive terms, what is the main difference? We know that homology is essentially the number of $n$-cycles that are not $n$-boundaries in some simplicial complex $X$. This is, more or less, the ...
79
votes
15answers
9k views

What is torsion in differential geometry intuitively?

Hi, given a connection on the tangent space of a manifold, one can define its torsion: $$T(X,Y):=\triangledown_X Y - \triangledown_Y X - [X,Y]$$ What is the geometric picture behind this ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Surprising Analogue of Q

I was describing Manish Kumar's work a few weeks ago to a fellow graduate student, and she stumped me with a big-picture question I couldn't answer. Manish Kumar proved that the commutator subgroup ...
14
votes
4answers
4k views

What is a symplectic form intuitively?

Hi, to completely describe a classical mechanical system, you need to do three things: -Specify a manifold $X$, the phase space. Intuitively this is the space of all possible states of your system. ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Whenever I read “centraliser of maximal split torus”, I think of…

Inspired by this question I'd like to ask something more specific: In the theory of connected reductive groups over fields, one often reads about the centraliser of a maximal split torus. Here is ...
20
votes
2answers
3k views

Intuition behind the Eichler-Shimura relation?

The modular curve $X_0(N)$ has good reduction at all primes $p$ not dividing $N$. At such a prime, the Eichler-Shimura relation expresses the Hecke operator $T_p$ (as an element of the ring of ...
1
vote
4answers
360 views

Intuition/Heuristic behind I/I^2 definition of Kähler differentials

Hello, this one has always been mysterious to me. The Kähler differentials $\Omega_{A/k}$ are definined, by the universal property $$Der_k(A,M)=A-Mod(\Omega_{A/k},M)$$ so for $M=A$ we get that ...
15
votes
1answer
704 views

Symmetric groups which are not quotients of Z/2Z*Z/3Z

Somehow this question made me think of instances of small exceptions in general, and I remembered the statement I heard once that $S_5,A_6,S_6,A_7,A_8,S_8$ are the only instances of ...
82
votes
38answers
15k views

Examples of eventual counterexamples

Define an "eventual counterexample" to be $P(a) = T $ for $a < n$ $P(n) = F$ $n$ is sufficiently large for $P(n) = T\ \ \forall n \in \mathbb{N}$ to be a 'reasonable' conjecture to make. where ...
7
votes
2answers
358 views

Effects of “weak” vs. “strict” categories in Eckmann-Hilton arguments

A standard example for demonstrating the need for genuinely weak n-categories is that a weak 3-category with unique 0- and 1-cells amounts to the same thing as a braided monoidal category (by an ...