This tag is to be used only when re-tagging highly(!) off-topic questions where none of the actual tags would make sense; all actual tags the questioner has used are removed and something is needed to have some tag, which is enforced by the software, so this tag is used. However note that this tag ...

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45
votes
29answers
28k views

Why do we teach calculus students the derivative as a limit?

I'm not teaching calculus right now, but I talk to someone who does, and the question that came up is why emphasize the $h \to 0$ definition of a derivative to calculus students? Something a teacher ...
37
votes
6answers
10k views

Best tablet computer for mathematics [closed]

I'm not sure if this is completely appropriate, but I thought I'd ask here. I'm in the market for a tablet computer. Unfortunately, my (mathematical) needs are very different from the needs of the ...
32
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the simplest, most elementary proof that a particular number is transcendental?

I teach, among many other things, a class of wonderful and inquisitive 7th graders. We've recently been studying and discussing various number systems (N, Z, Q, R, C, algebraic numbers, and even ...
31
votes
2answers
1k views

Gently falling functions

I wonder if it is possible to characterize the class of gently falling functions, which I would like to define as follows. Let $g(x)$ be a $C^2$ function defined on an interval $R \subseteq ...
30
votes
1answer
1k views

Mr. G.P.K.'s questions [closed]

WARNING: An acquaintance of mine, Mr.Goosepond Prhklstr Kratchinabritchisitch, has requested permission to post his questions under my username. When I asked him why he didn't do it under his own ...
28
votes
37answers
18k views

What is your favorite “strange” function? [closed]

There are many "strange" functions to choose from and the deeper you get involved with math the more you encounter. I consciously don't mention any for reasons of bias. I am just curious what you ...
28
votes
5answers
2k views

Can pure mathematics harness citizen science?

Having just finished Michael Nielsen's book "Reinventing Discovery", I find myself wondering if there are ways that pure mathematics research can engage the public in the way that GalaxyZoo or Foldit ...
26
votes
18answers
5k views

Interesting applications (in pure mathematics) of first-year calculus

What interesting applications are there for theorems or other results studied in first-year calculus courses? A good example for such an application would be using a calculus theorem to prove a ...
26
votes
2answers
2k views

Drawing of the eight Thurston geometries?

Do you know of a picture, drawing, or other concise visual representation of the eight three-dimensional Thurston geometries? I am imagining something akin to the standard picture (of a sphere, ...
23
votes
14answers
3k views

Making sure that you have comprehended a concept

Hi, I have a question that I've been thinking about for a long time. How can you assure yourself that you've fully comprehended a concept or the true meaning of a theorem in mathematics? I mean how ...
22
votes
16answers
2k views

functions satisfying “one-one iff onto”

Hello Everybody. I need some more examples for the following really interesting phenomenon: A function from the class ... is one-one iff it is onto. Some ...
22
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do we use $\epsilon$ and $\delta$?

My understanding (from a talk by Rob Bradley) is that Cauchy is responsible for the now-standard $\epsilon{-}\delta$ formulation of calculus, introduced in his 1821 Cours d’analyse. Although perhaps ...
21
votes
14answers
6k views

What is the Implicit Function Theorem good for?

What are some applications of the Implicit Function Theorem in calculus? The only applications I can think of are: 1) the result that the solution space of a non-degenerate system of equations ...
21
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the actual meaning of a fractional derivative?

We're all use to seeing differential operators of the form $\frac{d}{dx}^n$ where $n\in\mathbb{Z}$. But it has come to my attention that this generalises to all complex numbers, forming a field called ...
20
votes
6answers
1k views

Formal consequences of Riemann-Roch (multiple answers welcome)

This question aims to pin down what Riemann-Roch can tell us about a divisor on a curve, without any "geometric thinking". It can be annoying to wonder if there is some clever trick you're missing ...
20
votes
3answers
1k views

Proving non-existence of solutions to $3^n-2^m=t$ without using congruences

I made a passing comment under Max Alekseyev's cute answer to this question and Pete Clark suggested I raise it explicitly as a different question. I cannot give any motivation for it however---it was ...
19
votes
7answers
2k views

Generalizations of “standard” calculus

We have the usual analogy between infinitesimal calculus (integrals and derivatives) and finite calculus (sums and forward differences), and also the generalization of infinitesimal calculus to ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

Visualizing how Cech cohomology detects holes

I think it's pretty intuitive how singular/simplicial cohomology detects "holes" in a space. How can we directly visualize how and in what sense the Cech cohomology of a cover does this? In ...
18
votes
13answers
2k views

Do you find your students are less competent in basic algebra and arithmetic, and, if so, do you believe that this is due to overuse of calculators at an early level? [closed]

So first I gave my class the quiz problem: Compute $$\lim_{h\rightarrow 0} \frac{\frac{1}{3+h} - \frac{1}{3}}{h}.$$ Upon finding that they could not do that (no real surprize) I asked them to compute ...
18
votes
9answers
4k views

How to motivate and present epsilon-delta proofs to undergraduates?

This would seem to be a common question, but I am surprised not to see it already asked and answered on MO! I am teaching an undergraduate course, and I want to teach them to construct basic ...
18
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the L-function version of quadratic reciprocity?

Quadratic reciprocity theorems states that for two different odd prime p and q, we have (p/q)(q/p)=(-1)^(p-1)(q-1)/4. What is the statement of this theorem in L-function?
17
votes
4answers
988 views

The “ds” which appears in an integral with respect to arclength is not a 1-form. What is it?

The only reasonable way to interpret "$ds$" as a functional on tangent vectors has to be that it takes a tangent vector and spits out its length, but this is not linear. So $ds$ is not a 1-form. It ...
16
votes
11answers
5k views

The role of the mean value theorem (MVT) in first-year calculus.

Should the mean value theorem be taught in first-year calculus? Most calculus textbooks present the MVT just before the section that says that if $f'>0$ on an interval then $f$ increases on that ...
16
votes
6answers
3k views

Angle Maximizing the Distance of a Projectile

It is well-known that to maximize the horizontal distance traveled by a projectile fired from the ground at a given speed, one should fire it at a $45^\circ$ angle. What's less-known, though not too ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

There is mathematics behind the 1989 Tour de France !

The $1989$ Tour was won by Greg Lemond (USA, $1961$ - ), who beat Laurent Fignon (France, $1960$ - $2010$) by $8''$. Yes, eight seconds! The closest tour in history. Let me recall a few rules ...
15
votes
8answers
5k views

Interesting Applications of the Classical Stokes Theorem?

When students learn multivariable calculus they're typically barraged with a collection of examples of the type "given surface X with boundary curve Y, evaluate the line integral of a vector field Y ...
15
votes
3answers
5k views

How did Bernoulli prove L'Hôpital's rule?

To prove L'Hôpital's rule, the standard method is to use use Cauchy's Mean Value Theorem (and note that once you have Cauchy's MVT, you don't need an $\epsilon$-$\delta$ definition of limit to ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Model category structure on Set without axiom of choice

There is a model category structure on Set in which the cofibrations are the monomorphisms, the fibrations are maps which are either epimorphisms or have empty domain, and the weak equivalences are ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

Where to publish a paper on the Mafia game?

I wrote a research paper "A mathematical model of the Mafia game" (arXiv:1009.1031 [math.PR]). However, I do not know where to publish it. As an undergraduate studying majorly physics, I have little ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

What's the notation for a function restricted to a subset of the codomain?

Suppose I have a function f : A → B between two sets A and B. (The same question applies to group homomorphisms, continuous maps between topological spaces, etc. But for simpicity let's restrict ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is $ \frac{\pi^2}{12}=ln(2)$ not true ?

This question may sound ridiculous at first sight, but let me please show you all how I arrived at the afore mentioned 'identity'. Let us begin with (one of the many) equalities established by Euler: ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

The non-traveling mathematician problem

This is a career question. I have just begun a research postdoc position in Southern California. It has been hard, but I've enjoyed teaching my first graduate courses and working on research and ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

Characterizing visual proofs

``Proofs without words'' is a popular column in the Mathematics magazine. Question: What would be a nice way to characterize which assertions have such visual proofs? What definitions would one ...
13
votes
1answer
1k views

Probability of a Point on a Unit Sphere lying within a Cube

Suppose we have a (n-1 dimensional) Unit Sphere centered at the origin: $$ \sum_{i=1}^{n}{x_i}^2 = 1$$ What is the probability that a randomly selected point on the sphere, $ (x_1,x_2,x_3,...,x_n)$, ...
12
votes
13answers
2k views

Applications of connectedness

In an «advanced calculus» course, I am talking tomorrow about connectedness (in the context of metric spaces, including notably the real line). What are nice examples of applications of the idea ...
12
votes
4answers
4k views

Atiyah-MacDonald, exercise 2.11

Let A be a commutative ring with 1 not equal to 0. (The ring A is not necessarily a domain, and is not necessarily noetherian.) Assume we have an injective map of free A-modules A^m -> A^n. Must we ...
12
votes
5answers
1k views

Homological algebra and calculus (as in Newton)

This question reminded me of a possibly stupid idea that I had a while back. On page 2 of this paper, while discussing Euclid's axioms of plane geometry and spatial geometry, Manin makes an extremely ...
12
votes
1answer
297 views

Permanent of a matrix of odd integers

It is clear that the permanent of an $n\times n$ matrix which entries are odd integers, is an even number, as it is the sum of $n!$ odd numbers. I am interested in finding the highest power of $2$ ...
12
votes
2answers
401 views

Matrices into path algebras

I was thinking about quivers recently, and the following idea came to me. Let ei,j denote the matrix unit in Mn for 1 ≤ i,j ≤ n. Let Γ denote the complete quiver on vertices {1, ...
11
votes
12answers
4k views

Looking for an introductory textbook on algebraic geometry for an undergraduate lecture course

I am now supposed to organize a tiny lecture course on algebraic geometry for undergraduate students who have interest in this subject. I wonder whether there are some basic algebraic geometry texts ...
11
votes
9answers
4k views

Geometric imagination of differential forms

In order to explain to non-experts what is a vectorfield, one usually describes an assignemnt of an arrow to each point of space, and this works quite well, also when moving to manifolds (where a ...
11
votes
2answers
644 views

Interesting result on the Euler-Maschroni constant - what is the background?

Today I entered the following expression in maple: $$a_i = H_{10^i} - ln(10^i) - \gamma$$ Here $H_j$ equals $\sum_{k=1}^{j} 1/k$ and $\gamma$ is the Euler-Mascheroni constant. When I computed $a_n$ ...
11
votes
2answers
4k views

What is “Seetapun Enigma”?

A friend of mine just asked me this very question. While I had some training in combinatorics, I have never heard of the "Seetapun Enigma", which, supposedly, is related to the Ramsey's theorem. A ...
11
votes
4answers
801 views

Applications of full integral weight modular forms in elementary number theory

Except for Eisenstein series having the divisor functions as their Fourier coefficients, is there any other full integral weight modular form (of some level, preferably full) having arithmetic ...
11
votes
2answers
503 views

Independence of Leibniz rule and locality from other properties of the derivative?

The following is meant to be an axiomatization of differential calculus of a single variable. To avoid complications, let's say that $f$, $g$, $f'$, and $g'$ are smooth functions from $\mathbb{R}$ to ...
11
votes
2answers
735 views

Hopf Algebra for a physicist

Hello, for my bachelor's thesis I need to understand the Hopf Algebra of Feynman Diagrams. As I have only litte knowledge in Algebra by now I wanted to ask where I could start and what preknowledge I ...
11
votes
4answers
838 views

Why only three classical matrix ensembles in RMT? (Newbie question)

I am just starting out on understanding random matrix theory from a background in applied mathematics. I have a very basic question about the Gaussian ensembles: why are there only three classical ...
11
votes
1answer
404 views

Determination of a symmetric convex region by parallel sections

This question is partly inspired by a problem in Stewart's Calculus: "Find the area of the region enclosed by $y=x^2$ and $x=y^2$." Suppose $f\colon [0,1]\to [0,1]$ is a convex increasing function ...
11
votes
2answers
593 views

Drawing 3-configurations of points and lines with straight lines

It is well-known that the black-and-white coloring of the Heawood graph on 14 vertices determines a combinatorial 3-configuration with 7 "points" and 7 "lines", known as Fano plane. Similarly, any ...
11
votes
1answer
462 views

Is exponent of discrete-analytic function also discrete-analytic?

Lets define a discrete analytic function such a function that is equal to its Newton series: $$f(x) = \sum_{k=0}^\infty \binom{x}k \Delta^k f\left (0\right)$$ Is function $g(x)=e^{f(x)}$ also ...