**70**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### 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**

votes

**11**answers

8k views

### 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 ...

**58**

votes

**16**answers

5k views

### 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 ...

**57**

votes

**0**answers

3k views

### 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**

votes

**3**answers

4k views

### 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
...

**53**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### 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 ...

**53**

votes

**9**answers

6k views

### 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 ...

**45**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### 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**

votes

**8**answers

5k views

### 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**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### The view from inside of a mirrored tetrahedron

Suppose you were standing inside a regular tetrahedron $T$ whose
internal face surfaces were perfect mirrors.
Let's assume $T$'s height is $3{\times}$ yours, so that your
eye is roughly at the ...

**42**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### 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**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### 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**

votes

**12**answers

2k views

### 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**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### 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**

votes

**7**answers

5k views

### 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**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### 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 ...

**37**

votes

**7**answers

3k views

### 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**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Is the “Napkin conjecture” open? (origami)

The falsity of the following conjecture would be a nice counter-intuitive fact.
Given a square sheet of perimeter $P$, when folding it along origami moves, you end up with some polygonal flat figure ...

**36**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### 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 ...

**35**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### 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 ...

**34**

votes

**1**answer

3k views

### 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 ...

**33**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### $C^1$ 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**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Pach's “Animals”: What if the genus is positive?

Janos Pach asked a deep question 23 years ago (1988) that remains unsolved today:
Can every animal—a topological ball in $\mathbb{R^3}$ composed of unit cubes glued face-to-face—be ...

**32**

votes

**3**answers

854 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**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### 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 ...

**29**

votes

**0**answers

1k views

### 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 ...

**28**

votes

**2**answers

563 views

### 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 ...

**27**

votes

**1**answer

927 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**

votes

**6**answers

957 views

### 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**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### 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
$$\mathop{diam}\tilde M\le m\cdot \mathop{diam} M\ ?\ \ \ \ \ \ \ (*)$$
...

**27**

votes

**2**answers

617 views

### Term for “uncheckable constructions”

Is there a term for "uncheckable geometric constructions"?
Say, Angle Trisection and Doubling the Cube are checkable;
i.e., if the answer is given one can do finite Compass-and-straightedge ...

**27**

votes

**2**answers

789 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**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### 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 ...

**26**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### 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**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### 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**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### 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 ...

**26**

votes

**0**answers

961 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**

votes

**3**answers

964 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**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Nonconvex manhole covers

One common reason given for the circularity of manhole covers is that they can't fall through the manhole. For convex manhole covers, this property is equivalent to having constant width — if ...

**25**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### 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**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### 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 ...

**23**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### 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
...

**23**

votes

**10**answers

2k views

### 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 ...

**23**

votes

**2**answers

669 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**

votes

**2**answers

759 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**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### 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

**3**answers

708 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**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### 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**

votes

**0**answers

391 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**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### 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 ...