Euclidean, hyperbolic, discrete, convex, coarse geometry, comparisons in Riemannian geometry, symmetric spaces.

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69
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Light rays bouncing in twisted tubes

Imagine a smooth curve $c$ sweeping out a unit-radius disk that is orthogonal to the curve at every point. Call the result a tube. I want to restrict the radius of curvature of $c$ to be at most 1. I ...
63
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11answers
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Is it possible to capture a sphere in a knot?

You and I decide to play a game: To start off with, I provide you with a frictionless, perfectly spherical sphere, along with a frictionless, unstretchable, infinitely thin magical rope. This rope ...
57
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16answers
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One-step problems in geometry

I'm collecting advanced exercises in geometry. Ideally, each exercise should be solved by one trick and this trick should be useful elsewhere (say it gives an essential idea in some theory). If you ...
56
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0answers
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Volumes of Sets of Constant Width in High Dimensions

Background The n dimensional Euclidean ball of radius 1/2 has width 1 in every direction. Namely, when you consider a pair of parallel tangent hyperplanes in any direction the distance between them ...
53
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9answers
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Geometric proof of the Vandermonde determinant?

The Vandermonde matrix is the $n\times n$ matrix whose $(i,j)$-th component is $x_j^{i-1}$, where the $x_j$ are indeterminates. It is well known that the determinant of this matrix is $$\prod_{1\leq ...
52
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3answers
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Is the sphere the only surface all of whose projections are circles? Or: Can we deduce a spherical Earth by observing that its shadows on the Moon are always circular?

Several ancient arguments suggest a curved Earth, such as the observation that ships disappear mast-last over the horizon, and Eratosthenes' surprisingly accurate calculation of the size of the Earth ...
52
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6answers
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Is there an analogue of curvature in algebraic geometry?

I am not an expert, but there seems to be an enormous technical difference between algebraic geometry and differential/metric geometry stemming from the fact that there is apparently no such thing as ...
45
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5answers
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If a unitsquare is partitioned into 101 triangles, is the area of one at least 1%?

Update: The answer to the title question is not necessarily, as pointed out by Tapio and Willie. I would be more interested in lower bounds. Monsky's famous and amazingly tricky proof says that if we ...
43
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8answers
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Fair but irregular polyhedral dice

I am interested in determining a collection of geometric conditions that will guarantee that a convex polyhedron of $n$ faces is a fair die in the sense that, upon random rolling, it has an equal ...
42
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2answers
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How many unit cylinders can touch a unit ball?

What is the maximum number $k$ of unit-radius cylinders with mutually disjoint interiors that can touch a unit ball? By a cylinder I mean a set congruent to the Cartesian product of a line and a ...
42
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1answer
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two tetrahedra in R^4

It is relatively easy to show (see below) that if we have two equilateral triangles of side 1 in $R^3$, such that their union has diameter 1, then they must share a vertex. I wonder whether we have an ...
40
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12answers
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Can a discrete set of the plane of uniform density intersect all large triangles?

Let S be a discrete subset of the Euclidean plane such that the number of points in a large disc is approximately equal to the area of the disc. Does the complement of S necessarily contain triangles ...
40
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Explicit metrics

Every surface admits metrics of constant curvature, but there is usually a disconnect between these metrics, the shapes of ordinary objects, and typical mathematical drawings of surfaces. Can ...
39
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7answers
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Riemannian surfaces with an explicit distance function?

I'm looking for explicit examples of Riemannian surfaces (two-dimensional Riemannian manifolds $(M,g)$) for which the distance function d(x,y) can be given explicitly in terms of local coordinates of ...
39
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2answers
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Randall Munroe's Lost Immortals

In Randall Munroe's book What If?, the "Lost Immortals" question asks: If two immortal people were placed on opposite sides of an uninhabited Earthlike planet, how long would it take them to find ...
36
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7answers
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Is there an algebraic approach to metric spaces?

It is well known that most topological spaces can be studied via their algebra of continuous real-valued (or complex-valued) functions. For instance, in the setting of compact Hausdorff spaces, there ...
36
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1answer
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Rolling a random walk on a sphere

A ball rolls down an inclined plane, encountering horizontal obstacles, at which it rolls left/right with equal probability. There are regularly spaced staggered gaps that let the ball roll down to ...
34
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3answers
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What fraction of the integer lattice can be seen from the origin?

Consider the integer lattice points in the positive quadrant $Q$ of $\mathbb{Z}^2$. Say that a point $(x,y)$ of $Q$ is visible from the origin if the segment from $(0,0)$ to $(x,y) \in Q$ passes ...
33
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3answers
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$C^1$ isometric embedding of flat torus into $\mathbb{R}^3$

I read (in a paper by Emil Saucan) that the flat torus may be isometrically embedded in $\mathbb{R}^3$ with a $C^1$ map by the Kuiper extension of the Nash Embedding Theorem, a claim repeated in this ...
33
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1answer
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Probability that a stick randomly broken in five places can form a tetrahedron

The following problem was brought to my attention by a doctoral dissertation on Mathematics Education, but - as far as I know - the solution remains unknown. I have already asked this question on ...
32
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3answers
803 views

What polygons can be shrinked into themselves?

Let's call a polygon $P$ shrinkable if any down-scaled (dilated) version of $P$ can be translated into $P$. For example, the following triangle is shrinkable (the original polygon is green, the ...
29
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0answers
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Shortest closed curve to inspect a sphere

Let $S$ be a sphere in $\mathbb{R}^3$. Let $C$ be a closed curve in $\mathbb{R}^3$ disjoint from and exterior to $S$ which has the property that every point $x$ on $S$ is visible to some point $y$ of ...
27
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2answers
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Maneuvering with limited moves on $S^2$

This question comes to me via a friend, and apparently has something to do with quantum physics. However, stripped of all physics, it seems interesting enough on its own. I assume someone has asked ...
27
votes
1answer
903 views

Can we find lattice polyhedra with faces of area 1,2,3,…?

I asked this question two months ago on MSE, where it earned the rare Tumbleweed badge for garnering zero votes, zero answers, and 25 views over 61 days. Perhaps justifiably so! Here I repeat it with ...
27
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6answers
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Patterns among integer-distance points

Mark each point of $\mathbb{N}^2$ ($\mathbb{N}$ the natural numbers) if its Euclidean distance from the origin is an integer. One obtains a plot like this, symmetric about the $45^\circ$ diagonal. ...
27
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2answers
753 views

Shortest path through $\sqrt{n}$ points out of $n$

Say I sample $n$ points uniformly at random in the unit square, and then I look for the shortest path through $\sqrt{n}$ of those points (rounding up, say). What happens to the length of this path as ...
27
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3answers
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Is the ratio Perimeter/Area for a finite union of unit squares at most 4?

Update: As I have just learned, this is called Keleti's perimeter area conjecture. Prove that if H is the union of a finite number of unit squares in the plane, then the ratio of the perimeter and ...
27
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2answers
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what-if.xkcd.com: stabbing (simply connected) regions on the 2-sphere with few geodesics

In the latest what-if Randall Munroe ask for the smallest number of geodesics that intersect all regions of a map. The following shows that five paths of satellites suffice to cover the 50 states of ...
26
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3answers
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Polar body of a convex body that avoids a lattice

Let $K \subset {\bf R}^d$ be a symmetric convex body (an open bounded convex neighbourhood of the origin with $K = -K$) with the property that $K + {\bf Z}^d \neq {\bf R}^d$, i.e. the projection of ...
26
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1answer
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High-Dimensional Analogs of Polygon Spaces

[Edit: I had a mistake in the numerology (took d=6,5 instead of d=5,4). Edit: I mistakenly identified my mistake, it is 6,5 but I got the indices shifted by one.] Background: Polygon spaces Given a ...
26
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0answers
918 views

Concerning the various proofs from the axiom of choice that R^3 admits of surprising geometrical decompositions into circles, skew lines and so on: can we prove in any instance that there are no Borel such decompositions? Or that AC is required?

This question follows up on a comment I made on Joseph O'Rourke's recent question, one of several questions here on mathoverflow concerning surprising geometric partitions of space using the axiom of ...
25
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3answers
953 views

About the ratio of the areas of a convex pentagon and the inner pentagon made by the five diagonals

Question : Letting $S{^\prime}$ be the area of the inner pentagon made by the five diagonals of a convex pentagon whose area is $S$, then find the max of $\frac{S^\prime}{S}$. ...
25
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6answers
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When shorter means smaller?

Assume a convex figure $F\subset \mathbb R^2$ satisfies the following property: if $f:F\to \mathbb R^2$ is a distance-non-increasing map then its image $f(F)$ is congruent to a subset of $F$. Is it ...
24
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4answers
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Is Lebesgue's “universal covering” problem still open?

The following problem has been attributed to Lebesgue. Let "set" denote any subset of the Euclidean plane. What is the greatest lower bound of the diameter of any set which contains a subset congruent ...
24
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3answers
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Diameter of m-fold cover

Let $M$ be a closed Riemannian manifold. Assume $\tilde M$ is a connected Riemannian $m$-fold cover of $M$. Is it true that $$\mathop{diam}\tilde M\le m\cdot \mathop{diam} M\ ?\ \ \ \ \ \ \ (*)$$ ...
23
votes
2answers
622 views

Ellipses on spheres (and other surfaces)

Define an ellipse $E$ on a sphere as the locus of points whose sum of shortest geodesic distances to two foci $p_1$ and $p_2$ is a constant $d$. There are conditions on $\{ p_1, p_2, d \}$ for this ...
23
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2answers
731 views

The kissing number of a square, cube, hypercube?

How many nonoverlapping unit squares can (nonoverlappingly) touch one unit square? By "nonoverlapping" I mean: not sharing an interior point. By "touch" I mean: sharing a boundary point. ...
22
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4answers
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Surfaces filled densely by a geodesic

Which smooth, closed surfaces $S \subset \mathbb{R}^3$ have no single geodesic $\gamma$ that fills $S$ densely? Say a geodesic $\gamma$ "fills $S$ densely" if the closure of the set of points ...
22
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3answers
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Can a unit square be cut into rectangles that tile a rectangle with irrational sides?

For arbitrary positive integers $m$ and $n$, if we dissect a unit square into an $m\times n$ rectangular grid of $1/m\times 1/n$ rectangles, we can reassemble these $mn$ rectangles into an $n/m\times ...
22
votes
9answers
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Determining a surface in $\mathbb{R}^3$ by its Gaussian curvature

A curve in the plane is determined, up to orientation-preserving Euclidean motions, by its curvature function, $\kappa(s)$. Here is one of my favorite examples, from Alfred Gray's book, Modern ...
22
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3answers
697 views

Tetrahedron insphere iteration

I know that iterating the following incircle construction approaches an equilateral triangle in the limit:       Starting with any triangle $T$, one forms $T'$ by connecting ...
22
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2answers
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Why is the half-torus rigid?

The half-torus surface that results from slicing a torus like a bagel, depicted below (left), is isometrically rigid.       I know this from a remark of Alexandrov in Mathematics: ...
22
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2answers
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What is the best way to peel fruit?

A mango made me wonder about this. (See also this question, which is in a similar spirit.) Fix $L >0$ and a smooth body (possibly nonconvex—pears or bananas are fair game!) $B \subset ...
22
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0answers
376 views

Is there an Ehrhart polynomial for Gaussian integers

Let $N$ be a positive integer and let $P \subset \mathbb{C}$ be a polygon whose vertices are of the form $(a_1+b_1 i)/N$, $(a_2+b_2 i)/N$, ..., $(a_r+b_r i)/N$, with $a_j + b_j i$ being various ...
21
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6answers
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How might M.C. Escher have designed his patterns?

I realize this question isn't strictly mathematical, and if it doesn't fit with the content on this site then feel free (moderators/high-rep users) to close it. But when I thought up the question it ...
21
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6answers
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Covering a unit ball with balls half the radius

This is a direct (and obvious) generalization of the recent MO question, "Covering disks with smaller disks": How many balls of radius $\frac{1}{2}$ are needed to cover completely a ball of radius ...
21
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3answers
839 views

“Paradoxes” in $\mathbb{R}^n$

One may think of this question as a duplicate of this one. I see it more like an extension. The "inscribed sphere paradox" discussed in the aforementioned question states that if you inscribe a ...
21
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2answers
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Non-regular Connected Hausdorff Banach Manifold

After reading this MO post, I am wondering: Is every (connected) Hausdorff Banach manifold a regular space? Though unjustified, page 53 of this paper nonchalantly states: "Note that a Hausdorff ...
20
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4answers
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Volumes of n-balls: what is so special about n=5?

I am reposting this question from math.stackexchange where it has not yet generated an answer I had been looking for. The volume of an $n$-dimensional ball of radius $R$ is given by the classical ...
20
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7answers
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Is there always a maximum anti-rectangle with a corner square?

Let $C$ be an axis-parallel orthogonal polygon with a finite number of sides. Define an anti-rectangle in $C$ as a set of small squares in $C$, such that no two of them are covered by a single large ...