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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17
votes
1answer
818 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
428 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
55 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 ...
97
votes
17answers
13k 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 ...
97
votes
26answers
31k 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 ...
38
votes
9answers
11k 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, ...
7
votes
1answer
257 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
137 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
531 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 ...
37
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, ...
17
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
112
votes
27answers
46k 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
433 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 ...
39
votes
0answers
593 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 ...
63
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 ...
11
votes
2answers
328 views

Quotient rule, differential operator on a localization is well-defined, underlying geometry?

Using the quotient rule, we obtain that the notion of differential operator on a localization is well-defined:$$\mathcal{D}_A(B_f) \cong \mathcal{D}_A(B)_f.$$Here, $B$ is a commutative $A$-algebra, ...
222
votes
68answers
104k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
223 views

Importance of Ornstein's isomorphism theorem

"Perhaps the most important parts of the Ornstein theory are criteria for determining whether or not a shift or flow is Bernoulli (a Bernoulli shift, $B_{ct}$ , or $B_{t}^{\infty}$) because it allows ...
0
votes
1answer
1k views

Can one expect the existence of a relevant approach for a proof of the Riemann hypothesis using Mochizuki's theory? [closed]

Next month at Oxford university, there will have the first workshop outside Asia on the Inter-Universal Teichmuller theory of Shinichi Mochizuki: ...
8
votes
1answer
229 views

Intuitive reasons for the existence of modular parametrizations

Whenever I encounter anything about modular parametrizations, I have a feeling it is something very unnatural: you have some kind of moduli space and all of a sudden it parametrizes an object ...
20
votes
2answers
1k views

Lemma 1 from Beilinson's “Coherent Sheaves on $\mathbb{P}^n$ and Problems of Linear Algebra”, intuition?

Consider Lemma 1 from Beilinson's paper "Coherent Sheaves on $\mathbb{P}^n$ and Problems of Linear Algebra", as follows. Let $\mathcal{C}$ and $\mathcal{D}$ be triangulated categories, $F: ...
18
votes
2answers
750 views

how do you visualize characteristic class?

For cohomology, there are some equivalent definitions when the object we consider is sufficiently nice. Since I mainly work with algebraic variety, I will restrict the objects I am considering to be ...
20
votes
1answer
685 views

What motivated Rademacher's contour along the Ford circles?

Apologies if this question isn't suitable for MathOverflow; I posted it on MSE here but it didn't get a response and it felt like it was on the cusp of being suitable for here. After Ramanujan and ...
3
votes
1answer
73 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
459 views

What is the motivation and purpose of the Floretion group?

When searching through the Oeis, I came across something called a floretion. Based on the context, it seems to be some sort of algebraic structure. I googled it and found nothing that explained their ...
5
votes
0answers
137 views

Making the conceptual leap from locales to Grothendieck topologies?

I find the definition for locales and sheaves on locales to be straightforward, but I'm stumbling over the idea of a Grothendieck topology. Is there a nice way to see roughly how the latter ...
38
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
31
votes
14answers
7k 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 ...
29
votes
6answers
6k views

What does Mellin inversion “really mean”?

Given a function $f: \mathbb{R}^+ \rightarrow \mathbb{C}$ satisfying suitable conditions (exponential decay at infinity, continuous, and bounded variation) is good enough, its Mellin transform is ...
23
votes
3answers
2k views

Intuition behind the ricci flow

I hope you don't shoot me for this question. I try to understand among other things the Ricci flow. However I have no idea of the intuition behind the definition. So my questions is: What is the ...
25
votes
5answers
6k views

Physicist's request for intuition on covariant derivatives and Lie derivatives

A friend of mine is studying physics, and asks the following question which, I am sure, others could respond to better: What is the difference between the covariant derivative of $X$ along the curve ...
1
vote
0answers
127 views

Importance and intuition of global sections in sheaf cohomology

I am trying to understand why global sections of a sheaf are "important" or interesting objects of study. Perhaps I have too weak of a background to appreciate it (and that is certainly an acceptable ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

Understanding moment maps and Lie brackets

I'm trying to learn about moment maps in symplectic topology (suppose our Lie group is $G$ with Lie algebra $\mathfrak g$, acting on the symplectic manifold $(M,\omega)$ by symplectomorphisms). I'm ...
9
votes
1answer
374 views

Grothendieck - sheaves as meter sticks

I'm trying to read parts of McLarty's Grothendieck on Simplicity and Generality. In the article, I read Grothendieck thought of sheaves over some topological space as meter sticks measuring it. ...
10
votes
3answers
529 views

Self-Similar Graphs

Many fractals can be generated using and infinite sequence of graphs. For example, Sierpinski's Gasket could be generated by the following sequence of graphs. Many definitions of fractal dimensions ...
14
votes
1answer
442 views

Intuition behind the Morse inequalities?

Forgive me if this is sort of a vague question, but can someone supply me with their intuition behind the Morse inequalities?
15
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is there a $\sqrt{5}$ in Hurwitz's Theorem?

Hurwitz's theorem is an extension of Minkowski's Theorem and deals with rational approximations to irrational numbers. The theorem states: For every irrational number $\alpha$, there are infinitely ...
3
votes
0answers
89 views

Lie group cohomology with coefficients in Lie algebra

I'm looking for a reference, and basic results, about Lie algebra as modules over a Lie group (with the adjoint representation), from the point of view of cohomology. Links with the Lie algebra ...
17
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
722 views

Why does the bitxor function appear in Nim?

I am conducting research in Combinatorial Game Theory (CGT). Although I have done a considerable amount of reading, I do not completely understand why the bit-xor function also known as the nim-sum ...
12
votes
1answer
833 views

How can we interpret the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of Euclidean Distance Matrices?

I asked this question in Math Stack Exchange earlier here: http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/1199380/what-is-the-intuition-behind-how-can-we-interpret-the-eigenvalues-and-eigenvec and since I ...
26
votes
9answers
6k 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do people use “formal calculation” to describe informal calculations?

Many times, I see the word formal being used to describe a calculation that is not rigorous. I would think that such calculations should rather be termed informal than formal. What is the explanation ...
95
votes
42answers
18k 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
440 views

What is the meaning of non-Hausdorff spaces in algebraic geometry [closed]

At the beginning I should warn everybody reading this post: I don't know much about algebraic geometry so specialists in this subject may see my question as ignorant. As far I understood one on the ...
62
votes
8answers
11k views

Should the formula for the inverse of a 2x2 matrix be obvious?

As every MO user knows, and can easily prove, the inverse of the matrix $\begin{pmatrix} a & b \\\ c & d \end{pmatrix}$ is $\frac{1}{ad - bc} \begin{pmatrix} d & -b \\\ -c & a ...
2
votes
6answers
3k views

Proofs by induction [closed]

Background I'm interested in the issue of "explanatory" mathematical proofs and would like to try to find out what intuitions mathematicians have about induction, because there seems to be some ...
1
vote
0answers
299 views

What does the Riemann–Stieltjes integral measure? [closed]

The Riemann–Stieltjes integral is a generalization of the Riemann integral, and has a definition based on a sum analogous to the Riemann sum: $$ S(P,f,g) =\sum_{k=1}^{n} f(x_k)\Delta g(x_k) $$ where ...
27
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 ...