**0**

votes

**3**answers

943 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

**1**answer

569 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

**4**answers

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

**2**answers

335 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 ...

**18**

votes

**5**answers

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

**3**answers

3k 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

**2**answers

544 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 ...

**25**

votes

**4**answers

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

**3**answers

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?
...

**28**

votes

**3**answers

2k 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 ...

**4**

votes

**4**answers

1k 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

**2**answers

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

**1**answer

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)= ...

**11**

votes

**9**answers

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 ...

**62**

votes

**24**answers

26k 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

**3**answers

956 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

**2**answers

490 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 ...

**16**

votes

**7**answers

2k 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

**2**answers

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

**2**answers

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

**2**answers

537 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

**4**answers

649 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 ...

**3**

votes

**1**answer

941 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

**6**answers

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

**4**answers

688 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

**1**answer

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 ...

**23**

votes

**7**answers

7k 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, ...

**38**

votes

**15**answers

9k 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

**6**answers

4k 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 ...

**71**

votes

**15**answers

8k 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

**3**answers

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 ...

**13**

votes

**4**answers

3k 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

**3**answers

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 ...

**17**

votes

**2**answers

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

**4**answers

352 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

**1**answer

677 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 ...

**68**

votes

**36**answers

13k views

### The phenomena 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

**2**answers

337 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 ...

**13**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Intuition for Primitive Cohomology

In complex projective geometry, we have a specified Kähler class $\omega$ and we have a Lefschetz operator $L:H^i(X,\mathbb{C})\to H^{i+2}(X,\mathbb{C})$ given by $L(\eta)=\omega\wedge \eta$. We then ...

**11**

votes

**2**answers

4k views

### Truth of the Poisson summation formula

The Poisson summation says, roughly, that summing a smooth $L^1$-function of a real variable at integral points is the same as summing its Fourier transform at integral points(after suitable ...

**6**

votes

**1**answer

697 views

### Geometric Intuition for Big Monodromy

In various contexts, I have come across results referred to as "big monodromy." A standard arithmetic example is the open image theorem for the image of Galois action on non-CM elliptic curves. A ...

**9**

votes

**3**answers

5k views

### Visualisation of Riemann-Stieltjes-Integrals

The Riemann-Stieltjes-Integral $\int_a^bf(x)dg(x)$ is a generalization of the Riemann Integral. It is e.g. heavily used as a starting point for stochastic integration. The approximating ...

**24**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Why is addition of observables in quantum mechanics commutative?

I am no expert in the field. I hope the question is suitable for MO.
Background/Motivation
I once followed a quantum mechanics course aimed at mathematicians. Instead of the usual motivations coming ...

**29**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Why do Littlewood-Richardson coefficients describe the cohomology of the Grassmannian?

I'm looking for a "conceptual" explanation to the question in the title. The standard proofs that I've seen go as follows: use the Schubert cell decomposition to get a basis for cohomology and show ...

**16**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Stacks and sheaves

I'm a bit confused by the double role which sheaves play in the theory of stacks.
On the one hand, sheaves on a site are the obvious generalization of a sheaf on a topological space. On the other ...

**18**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### Why does the group law commute with morphisms of elliptic curves?

I know this should be pretty simple, but right now the only way I can see how to prove it is to sit down and write out explicit formulae for the group law, and see that everything works out. What's ...

**34**

votes

**9**answers

6k views

### Intuition for Group Cohomology

I'm beginning to learn cohomology for cyclic groups in preparation for use in the proofs of global class field theory (using ideal-theoretic arguments). I've seen the proof of the long exact sequence ...

**83**

votes

**16**answers

11k views

### How do I make the conceptual transition from multivariable calculus to differential forms?

One way to define the algebra of differential forms $\Omega(M)$ on a smooth manifold $M$ (as explained by John Baez's week287) is as the exterior algebra of the dual of the module of derivations on ...

**48**

votes

**9**answers

6k views

### How is it that you can guess if one of a pair of random numbers is larger with probability > 1/2?

My apologies if this is too elementary, but it's been years since I heard of this paradox and I've never heard a satisfactory explanation. I've already tried it on my fair share of math Ph.D.'s, and ...

**152**

votes

**61**answers

79k views

### Proofs without words

Can you give examples of proofs without words? In particular, can you give examples of proofs without words for non-trivial results?
(One could ask if this is of interest to mathematicians, and I ...