**72**

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 ...

**65**

votes

**11**answers

9k 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

**3**answers

5k 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
...

**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

**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 ...

**52**

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 ...

**44**

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

6k 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 ...

**43**

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

**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 ...

**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 ...

**41**

votes

**3**answers

3k 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 ...

**41**

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

**1**answer

3k views

### Probability that a stick randomly broken in five places can form a tetrahedron

Edit (June 2015): Addressing this problem is a brief project report from the Illinois Geometry Lab (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), dated May 2015, that appears here along with a ...

**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 ...

**38**

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 ...

**38**

votes

**3**answers

4k 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 ...

**38**

votes

**1**answer

416 views

### Continuous maps which send intervals of $\mathbb{R}$ to convex subsets of $\mathbb{R}^2$

Let $f : \mathbb{R} \longmapsto \mathbb{R}^2$ be a continuous map which sends any interval $I \subseteq \mathbb{R}$ to a convex subset $f(I)$ of $\mathbb{R}^2$. Is it true that there must be a line in ...

**36**

votes

**3**answers

3k 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

**3**answers

2k 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 ...

**36**

votes

**1**answer

3k 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 ...

**34**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### What polygons can be shrunk 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 ...

**34**

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 ...

**33**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### Is it possible to partition $\mathbb R^3$ into unit circles?

Is it possible to partition $\mathbb R^3$ into unit circles?

**31**

votes

**0**answers

2k 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 ...

**30**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Is there a subset of the plane that meets every line in two open intervals?

Using the Axiom of Choice, it is possible to construct a subset of the plane that meets every line in two points (these are called "$2$-point sets"). What if, instead of points, we ask for two open ...

**30**

votes

**2**answers

625 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 ...

**29**

votes

**2**answers

2k 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

**4**answers

7k views

### Is the Jaccard distance a distance?

Wikipedia defines the Jaccard distance between sets A and B as $$J_\delta(A,B)=1-\frac{|A\cap B|}{|A\cup B|}.$$ There's also a book claiming that this is a metric. However, I couldn't find any ...

**28**

votes

**1**answer

1k 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 ...

**28**

votes

**3**answers

1k 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 $\frac{S^\prime}{S}$.
...

**28**

votes

**2**answers

684 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 ...

**28**

votes

**3**answers

2k 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 ...

**27**

votes

**5**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 ...

**27**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Parabolic envelope of fireworks

The envelope of parabolic trajectories from a common launch point is itself a parabola.
In the U.S. this weekend many will have a chance to observe this fact directly, as the 4th of July is ...

**27**

votes

**6**answers

1k 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

888 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 ...

**27**

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 ...

**27**

votes

**0**answers

1k 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 ...

**26**

votes

**14**answers

6k views

### Open problems in Euclidean geometry?

Which are some (research level) open problems in Euclidean geometry ?
(Edit: I ask just out of curiosity, to understand how -and if- nowadays this is not a "dead" field yet)
I should clarify a ...

**26**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### 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 ...

**26**

votes

**2**answers

885 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.
...

**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 ...

**25**

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
...

**25**

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 ...

**25**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### 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 ...