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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24
votes
5answers
2k views

Heuristic explanation of why we lose projectives in sheaves.

We know that presheaves of any category have enough projectives and that sheaves do not, why is this, and how does it effect our thinking? This question was asked(and I found it very helpful) but I ...
21
votes
2answers
7k 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 ...
112
votes
45answers
21k 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 '...
32
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 ...
5
votes
0answers
161 views

Intuition: Smooth functions on Banach Spaces

On finite-dimensional vector spaces, we all have a reasonable idea of which functions are likely to be $C^1$ or smooth. When it comes to differentiation on Banach spaces, I find that my `intuition' ...
235
votes
68answers
110k 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 ...
136
votes
28answers
58k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
146 views

mapping class group relations

The question I want to ask is vague in a sense. We have examples of mapping class relations, e.g. lantern relation, chain relations, etc. For instance the latern relation on a disk with three boundary ...
1
vote
0answers
56 views

How quickly can we mutliply Cayley-Dickson hypercomplexes?

Assuming that all of the coordinates of two Cayley-Dickson Hypercomplex numbers are non-negative integers less than a prime $p$, how quickly can we multiply these numbers? I'm also interested in what ...
-4
votes
2answers
195 views

If mathematics is logic and intuition, then [closed]

I am just wondering why Mathematics is often defined as The study of Structures, Logic and Numbers which I can concur with but still retain various questions in mind. I am a postgraduate student of ...
6
votes
4answers
924 views

What is the intuition of connections for cubical sets?

I am beggining to do some work with cubical sets and thought that I should have an understanding of various extra structures that one may put on cubical sets (for purposes of this question, ...
4
votes
0answers
40 views

Intuition for universal quotient maps

The universal quotient maps are precisely the descent morphisms in the category of topological spaces. In some papers of Janelidze, Tholen, Sobral, and Reiterman (see for instance Reiterman-Tholen), ...
4
votes
1answer
90 views

Norm vs A-norm in non-Archimedean Functional Analysis

Let $K =(K,| \cdot |)$ be a non-Archimedean valued field. Let $E$ be a $K$-vector space. A norm on $E$ is a map $||\cdot||:E\to[0,\infty)$ such that: $||x||=0$ if and only if $x=0$, $||\lambda x||=...
0
votes
0answers
84 views

Is $n+\frac {1}{2}$ in Kendall-Mann numbers and quantum harmonic oscillator related?

It is known that quantum harmonic oscillator is connected to the symmetric group of infinite order which is isomorphic to the permutation group. According to Cayley's theorem any finite group is ...
2
votes
1answer
169 views

Free operads and trees

I am currently working in my PhD thesis, and it became necessary to understand some facts about free symmetric operads. Hence I started to study this subject by myself, following Kapranov & ...
2
votes
0answers
28 views

A proper class for smooth chaotic function

This might be a little, soft, but I'll try Consider the interval $I=[-1,1]$. We will define a chaotic function $f:\mathbb{R}_+ \times I \to \mathbb{C}$ in the following traditional way: For every $...
1
vote
0answers
40 views

The application of recursive SVD [closed]

Given an n*m matrix A, the SVD decomposition of A is ${\rm SVD}(A)$= $USV^t$. The application of SVD to the product of U and S gives as a result the same matrices multiplied by the identity matrix, i....
26
votes
1answer
1k views

Does the Pfaffian have a geometric meaning?

While reviewing the proof of Gauss-Bonnet in John Lee's book, I noticed the following paragraph: " ...In a certain sense, this might be considered a very satisfactory generalization of Gauss-Bonnet. ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a way to graphically imagine smash product of two topological spaces?

Recently I've been reading "Topology" by Klaus Janich. I find this book very entertaining as it contains lots of graphical illustrations that appeal to my "geometrical" imagination. In paragraph 3.6 ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

The localization of a regular local ring is regular

I've heard, as I'm sure many have, that the theorem that the localization of a regular local ring at any prime ideal is regular is one of the first major applications of homological methods to pure ...
32
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
1k views

Expert, Intuitive, Organizing Analogies

In learning a new area it is very helpful to have high-level intuitive analogies that keep track of the various parts of an important argument or strategy. Experts have a store of such things, and ...
29
votes
1answer
2k views

Grothendieck says: points are not mere points, but carry Galois group actions

Apologies in advance if this question is too elementary for MO. I didn't find an explanation of these ideas in any algebraic geometry books (I don't know French). The following is an excerpt from ...
0
votes
1answer
611 views

Generalization of join of simplicial complexes

The join of two abstract simplicial complexes $K$ and $L$, denoted $K\star L$ is defined as a simplicial complex on the base set $V(K)\dot{\cup} V(L)$ whose simplices are disjoint union of simplices ...
5
votes
1answer
104 views

Isomorphism classes of differential rank $k$ vectors bundles over $S^q$ [closed]

Could anybody provide a motivated sketch of why the isomorphism classes of the differentiable rank $k$ real vector bundles over the sphere $S^q$ are given by$$\text{Vect}_k(S^q) \simeq \pi_{q - 1}(\...
35
votes
10answers
10k 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 ...
26
votes
14answers
6k views

Geometric imagination of differential forms

In order to explain to non-experts what a vector field is, one usually describes an assignment of an arrow to each point of space. And this works quite well also when moving to manifolds, where a ...
58
votes
10answers
11k 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 ...
6
votes
0answers
141 views

Intuition behind small object argument and cofibrantly generated model categories?

With regards to model categories, what is the intuition behind the small object argument and cofibrantly generated model categories?
12
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
23
votes
4answers
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 @...
2
votes
0answers
116 views

Intuition behind the Duistermaat-Guillemin version of Weyl's law

The theorem in question (see this paper), after a modification by Ivrii (see this paper) states the following: Let $(M, g)$ be a compact Riemannian manifold of dimension $n \geq 2$. Assume that the ...
32
votes
14answers
8k views

Examples of using physical intuition to solve math problems

For the purposes of this question let a "physical intuition" be an intuition that is derived from your everyday experience of physical reality. Your intuitions about how the spin of a ball affects ...
59
votes
16answers
15k 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
2k views

How to explain the concentration-of-measure phenomenon intuitively?

One way to phrase the "concentration-of-measure" phenomenon is that, for a Euclidean sphere $S^d$ in $d$ dimensions, for large $d$, "most of the mass is close to the equator, for any equator."1 Q....
19
votes
1answer
927 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
581 views

Intuition/idea behind a proof of the splitting principle?

The splitting principle is as follows. Given a vector bundle $E \to X$ with $X$ compact Hausdorff, there is a compact Hausdorff space $F(E)$ and a map $p: F(E) \to X$ such that the induced map $p^*...
4
votes
0answers
62 views

The metric gives the optimal element in a class

In geometry there is plenty of examples in which the following happens: Some elements are considered equivalent, in some topological or algebraic sense We take the quotient The metric is usually not ...
103
votes
17answers
14k 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 definition&...
107
votes
26answers
34k views

What is convolution intuitively?

If random variable $X$ has a probability distribution of $f(x)$ and random variable $Y$ has a probability distribution $g(x)$ then $(f*g)(x)$, the convolution of $f$ and $g$, is the probability ...
40
votes
9answers
13k 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, ...
8
votes
1answer
474 views

Intuition for Picard-Lefschetz formula

I'm trying to develop some intuition for the (local) Picard-Lefschetz formula (which I'm encountering for the first time in Deligne's paper "La Conjecture de Weil, I"). To summarize the setup, we ...
2
votes
0answers
151 views

Description of the equalizer of $\prod _j R/I_j \rightrightarrows \prod _{i,j}R/(I_i+I_j)$

This is a crosspost of this MSE question. I have asked several questions in an attmept to get a general version of the Chinese remainder theorem without conditions on the ideals which will ...
16
votes
1answer
606 views

(really) basic intuition for $\mathbb A^1$-homotopy theory

Apologies in advance if this question is inappropriate for MO. I'm trying to read here and there about $\mathbb A^1$-homotopy theory in algebraic geometry. I understand some abstract machinery is ...
38
votes
4answers
6k views

Why are planar graphs so exceptional?

As compared to classes of graphs embeddable in other surfaces. Some ways in which they're exceptional: Mac Lane's and Whitney's criteria are algebraic characterizations of planar graphs. (Well, ...
19
votes
2answers
3k views

Intuition of law of iterated logarithm?

Let $X_i$ be iid random variables with $EX_i = 0$ and $Var X_i=1$ and $S_n=X_1+\cdots+X_n$. Then the law of the iterated logarithm says almost everywhere we have $$\limsup_{n\to\infty}\frac{S_n}{\...
13
votes
1answer
486 views

Axiom of choice as zero dimensionality

In the paper Quantifiers and Sheaves by Lawvere, at the bottom of the second page, the author writes: "... the condition that every epi splits, which geometrically we would call 0-dimensionality ...
41
votes
0answers
670 views

Vector bundle $L$ admits connection if and only if degree of every direct summand of $L$ divisible by $\text{char}\,k$, intuition

Consider the following theorem of Atiyah. Let $X$ be a connected smooth projective curve over an algebraically closed field $k$. Then a vector bundle $L$ on $X$ admits a connection if and only if ...
66
votes
34answers
11k views

What notions are used but not clearly defined in modern mathematics?

"Everyone knows what a curve is, until he has studied enough mathematics to become confused through the countless number of possible exceptions." Felix Klein What notions are used but not ...
14
votes
7answers
4k views

What is a complex inner product space “really”?

This is an extended re-post of a question that I have asked on MSE not a long time ago. But anyway, it seems more appropriate for MO. To begin with, in a real inner product space we have a geometric ...