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 ...

learn more… | top users | synonyms

23
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
-4
votes
0answers
57 views

How to rewrite square root without exponents? [closed]

I'm trying to understand what taking the square root really is, intuitively. A number to the power of two is simply multiplying the number with itself, and I know the square root is the reversal ...
92
votes
25answers
37k 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
84 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 ...
204
votes
67answers
98k 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 ...
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 ...
7
votes
1answer
293 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
451 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 ...
-3
votes
0answers
64 views

Are there papers or books that explain why Bernhard Riemann believed that his hypothesis is true?

This question accross this question from SE such that no answer ,I think every mathematician should know Wy B.Riemann believed that his hypothesis is true .I'm affraid to ask this question in M.O ...
4
votes
3answers
306 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 ...
60
votes
32answers
10k 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
386 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
886 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
84 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
667 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 ...
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 ...
12
votes
1answer
469 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 ...
16
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 ...
90
votes
42answers
17k 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
416 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 ...
59
votes
8answers
10k 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 ...
1
vote
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
178 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 ...
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 ...
25
votes
13answers
5k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
307 views

Choice of fibrations is like a choice of a basis of a module

In some notes on derived stacks, in describing categories of fibrant objects, the author drops this parenthetical: (Grothendieck said in his famous letter to Quillen that the choice of $\mathscr ...
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 (?) ...
1
vote
1answer
234 views

Yang-Mills Functional and Energy

I have a question about the meaning of Yang-Mills Functional. It is stated everywhere that the Yang-Mills Functional is a measure of energy. But the formal definition of the Yang-Mills Functional is: ...
1
vote
0answers
228 views

Intuitive Approach to Sheaf and Cech Cohomology [closed]

Sheaf and Cech cohomology $H^*(X,\mathcal{F})$ (which give the same result when applied to good enough topological spaces) are a useful generalisation of the concepts of de Rham and Dolbeault ...
7
votes
1answer
362 views

Intuitive Aproach to Dolbeault Cohomology [closed]

(Duplicated from math.stackexchange) I would like to understand an intuitive approach to the definitions of Dolbeault Cohomology (using $\partial$ and $\bar{\partial}$) similar to the one given here. ...
8
votes
1answer
422 views

Basic examples of induction on scales arguments

An important ingredient in recent progress on Euclidean harmonic analysis has been that of "inductions on scales". A few examples are the papers of Wolff, Tao, and Bourgain and Guth. Here is a ...
1
vote
0answers
145 views

Intuition for hereditary torsion theories

I'm looking for intuition and references for the definition of a hereditary torsion theory and two facts found here. First, the definition and facts: Definition. A torsion theory $(\mathcal ...
8
votes
9answers
1k views

Examples where adding complexity made a problem simpler

I can think of a few situations in math where a problem becomes easier or an object becomes simpler when some complexity is added. Examples: $S^n$ is never contractible, but $S^{\infty}$ is. The ...
9
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 ...
87
votes
16answers
11k 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 ...
77
votes
9answers
6k views

Why are flat morphisms “flat?”

Of course "flatness" is a word that evokes a very particular geometric picture, and it seems to me like there should be a reason why this word is used, but nothing I can find gives me a reason! Is ...
1
vote
0answers
101 views

Role of determinant of the matrix corresponding to $i$-th Homology group.

I was thinking about the proof of the Lefschetz's Fixed point theorem and the ingeniuty of the Hopf's Trace formula, i.e. associating the trace of the matrix for deciding about the fixed points. Now ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

Why the Dold-Thom theorem?

Dold-Thom Theorem: $$\pi_i(SP(X))\cong\tilde{H}_i(X)$$ It's pretty miraculous, no? I've seen its proof, where you show that the composition of the functors on the left-side satisfies the axioms of a ...
48
votes
15answers
13k 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
890 views
0
votes
0answers
52 views

Why Does a quadratic phase term in BNLS causes collapse?

I've heard a couple of times that in the Biharmonic Nonlinear Schrodinger Equation, $i\psi_z + \Delta ^2 \psi + |\psi | ^{2\sigma } \psi =0 $, $\psi (x, 0) = \psi _0 (x) \in H^2( \mathbb{R} ^d ) $ ...
53
votes
9answers
9k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
252 views

Compositional inversion and generating functions in algebraic geometry

The exponential generating function of the graded dimension of the cohomology ring of the moduli space of n-pointed curves of genus zero satisfying the associativity equations of physics (the WDVV ...
27
votes
13answers
6k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
376 views

Twist in identification with singular cohomology

Let $X$ be a smooth projective variety over $\mathbb{Q}$ and $$V = H^m(X(\mathbb{C}), \mathbb{Q} \cdot (2\pi i)^r)$$ Then I've seen people write the comparison with complex cohomology (an isomorphism ...
90
votes
25answers
27k 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
7k views

Visualization of Riemann–Stieltjes Integrals

The Riemann–Stieltjes integral $\int_a^b f(x)\,dg(x)$ is a generalization of the Riemann integral. It is e.g. heavily used as a starting point for stochastic integration. The approximating ...
54
votes
26answers
5k views

Proof synopsis collection

I hate to keep going with the big lists, but the question about one-sentence summaries of topics/areas spurred this question...and I just can't help myself! Definition (Fraleigh): A proof synopsis ...