# Beautiful theorems with short proof [closed]

I like to ask for beautiful mathematical theorems with short proof. A proof is short in my sense if it is at most one page assuming basic notations and very basic results a second year student will know and understand. I do not like to discuss what beauty means...I have now written down a script with 107 such theorems (in my sense) and their proof and I have ideas for another 20. One the one hand I would be very thankful for theorems I have yet not considered. On the other hand I like to see if there is some consensus which theorems with a short proof are beautiful.

• I believe many results here qualify: papers.assafrinot.com/short.pdf Sep 11, 2012 at 0:03
• Zagier's paper "values of zeta functions and their applications" has a nice short proof of $\zeta(2)=\pi^2/6$ due to Calabi. Sep 11, 2012 at 0:08
• Dear Caicedo, i am not sure but I belive these results are mostly not understandable for an average 2 second year student. Sep 11, 2012 at 0:13
• Several of the "one-page papers" that I put up some years ago at math.harvard.edu/~elkies/Misc/index.html#papers should fit the bill. Sep 11, 2012 at 1:28
• Dear Jörg, I cannot find your script on your homepage. Are you going to post it there? I would really like to see it! Sep 11, 2012 at 2:31

The standard evaluation of $\int_{-\infty}^{\infty} \exp(-x^2) dx.$

• Sure! This is very nice. Sep 11, 2012 at 11:38

Cantor's diagonal argument to prove that $\mathbb{R}$ is uncountable.

• Improved by Cantor's first proof that the continuum is uncountable. Easier, too.
– AXH
Dec 7, 2013 at 23:14

Picard's little theorem is remarkable, and its one-line proof led Littlewood to remark that it would be the world's shortest Ph.D. thesis.

• It is indeed a very slick proof, but the original question says: "A proof is short in my sense if it is at most one page assuming basic notations and very basic results a second year student will know and understand." How much complex analysis should these students know? Sep 11, 2012 at 6:17

L.M. Kelly's proof of the Sylvester-Gallai theorem: in any configuration of $n$ points in the plane, not all on a line, there is a line containing exactly two of the points.

See Aigner & Ziegler, "Proofs from the Book", chapter 8.

• While you are at it, see the rest of Proofs from The Book. Sep 11, 2012 at 1:47
• I think about including Sylvester-Gallai theorem from the book of proofs. But many proves in the book are to long. Sep 11, 2012 at 11:31

Fermat's proof, by infinite descent, that there is no Pythagorean right triangle whose area is a square might qualify.

• Many thanks, thats one at have not considerd! Sep 11, 2012 at 11:34

The proof(via the pigeon-hole principle--continued fractions would need too much preparation) that when $$D>0$$ is not a square then the "Pellian equation" $$x^2-Dy^2=1$$ has a non-trivial solution.

Euler's formula $$\mathrm{e}^{i \theta} = \cos \left( \theta \right) + i \sin \left( \theta \right)$$ when considered as a theorem. From whatever angle you look at it, almost all the proofs are short and extremely beautiful.

• As someone who is teaching a course in the spirit of "foundations of analysis" -- short? really? Sep 11, 2012 at 6:15
• Hi Yemon. Assuming only basic notations and very basic results, which proofs did you have in mind that are longer than one page?
– an12
Sep 11, 2012 at 6:54
• Dear Yemon, i think the same. Sep 11, 2012 at 11:33
• @an12: how are you defining cos and sin and exp? Sep 12, 2012 at 21:36

@Paul Monsky's proof of Monsky's theorem: a complete proof starting from nothing takes two pages. (doesn't quite meet the criteria, but what the heck).

• The link is not working anymore. Sep 27, 2018 at 0:52