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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32
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3answers
3k views

What do higher Chow groups mean?

Let $z^i(X, m)$ be the free abelian group generated by all codimension $i$ subvarieties on $X \times \Delta^m$ which intersect all faces $X \times \Delta^j$ properly for all j < m. Then, for each ...
27
votes
7answers
2k views

What examples of distributions should I keep in mind?

I'm learning a bit about the theory of distributions. What examples of distributions will help me develop good intuition? Definitions: Let $U$ be an open subset of $\mathbb{R}^n$. Write ...
4
votes
1answer
722 views

Explanation for Satake correspondence

Some time ago I was told there's an interesting classical Satake correspondence which I will write as $$[\mathop{\mathrm{disk}} \Rightarrow G] \\,\backslash\\, [\mathop{\mathrm{disk}^\times} ...
26
votes
3answers
4k views

What is the “intuition” behind “brave new algebra”?

Y.I. Manin mentions in a recent interview the need for a “codification of efficient new intuitive tools, such as … the “brave new algebra” of homotopy theorists”. This makes me puzzle, because I ...
38
votes
12answers
5k views

Cures for mathematician's block (as in writer's block) [closed]

What kind of things do you find that help you get the "creative juices flowing," to use a tired cliche, when you're stuck or burnt out on a problem? I've read about some studies that suggest listening ...
49
votes
52answers
17k views

Colloquial catchy statements encoding serious mathematics

As the title says, please share colloquial statements that encode (in a non-rigorous way, of course) some nontrivial mathematical fact (or heuristic). Instead of giving examples here I added them as ...
29
votes
6answers
5k views

Algebraically closed fields of positive characteristic

I'm taking introductory algebraic geometry this term, so a lot of the theorems we see in class start with "Let k be an algebraically closed field." One of the things that's annoyed me is that as far ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Intuitive Example of a Jacobson Radical

Can anyone explain what a Jacobson radical is using an intuitive example? I can't quite understand Wikipedia's explanation.
30
votes
6answers
3k views

Intuition for the last step in Serre's proof of the three-squares theorem

Serre's A Course in Arithmetic gives essentially the following proof of the three-squares theorem, which says that an integer a is the sum of three squares if and only if it is not of the form 4^m (8n ...
62
votes
11answers
11k views

“Philosophical” meaning of the Yoneda Lemma

The Yoneda Lemma is a simple result of category theory, and its proof is very straightforward. Yet I feel like I do not truly understand what it is about; I have seen a few comments here mentioning ...
14
votes
6answers
1k views

Can the “physical argument” for the existence of a solution to Dirichlet's problem be made into an actual proof?

Caveat: I don't really know anything about PDEs, so this question might not make sense. In complex analysis class we've been learning about the solution to Dirichlet's problem for the Laplace ...
13
votes
15answers
1k views

Most helpful heuristic?

What's the most useful piece of mathematical "folk wisdom" you've encountered? I'm talking here about things that aren't theorems, or even conjectures, or even shadows of conjectures -- just broad ...
24
votes
6answers
6k views

Intuition for Integral Transforms

It is well known that the operations of differentiation and integration are reduced to multiplication and division after being transformed by an integral transform (like e.g. Fourier or Laplace ...
11
votes
3answers
765 views

An intuitive reason why the “Rule 30” CA is random/pseudorandom?

I'm a little bit hesitant to ask this here, so please notice the tag. My hope is that someone will have a more satisfying answer than what I've heard before... A long time ago I read (perhaps ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Some intuition behind the five lemma?

Slightly simplified, the five lemma states that if we have a commutative diagram (in, say, an abelian category) $$\require{AMScd} \begin{CD} A_1 @>>> A_2 @>>> A_3 @>>> A_4 ...
37
votes
5answers
4k views

Intuition about the cotangent complex?

Does anyone have an answer to the question "What does the cotangent complex measure?" Algebraic intuitions (like "homology measures how far a sequence is from being exact") are as welcome as ...
15
votes
3answers
907 views

elementary Ext^1 intuition

I am wondering what sort of basic basic intuitive meaning Ext1(M,N) has. As a base case: if ...
27
votes
6answers
2k views

How to think about model categories?

I've read about model categories from an Appendix to one of Lurie's papers. What are the examples of model categories? What should be my intuition about them? E.g. I understand the typical examples ...
26
votes
11answers
22k views

Why is the gradient normal?

This is a somewhat long discussion so bear with me. There is a theorem that I have always been curious about from an intuitive standpoint. This is an issue that has been glossed over in most ...
33
votes
4answers
4k views

Is there a good way to think of vanishing cycles and nearby cycles?

Once in a while I run into literature that invokes vanishing cycle machinery with a cryptic sentence like, "this follows from a standard vanishing cycle argument." Is there a good way to look at ...
10
votes
5answers
3k views

Examples and intuition for arithmetic schemes

How should a beginner learn about arithmetic schemes (interpret this as you wish, or as a regular scheme, proper and flat over Spec(Z))? What are the most important examples of such schemes? Good ...
27
votes
10answers
8k views

What is (co)homology, and how does a beginner gain intuition about it?

This question comes along with a lot of associated sub-questions, most of which would probably be answered by a sufficiently good introductory text. So a perfectly acceptable answer to this question ...