# Greatest Hits

**325**

votes

**78**answers

147k views

### Proofs without words

Can you give examples of proofs without words? In particular, can you give examples of proofs without words for non-trivial results?
(One could ask if this is of interest to mathematicians, and I ...

**229**

votes

**29**answers

81k views

### Mathematical games interesting to both you and a 5+-year-old child

Background: My daughter is 6 years old now, once I wanted to think on some math (about some Young diagrams), but she wanted to play with me...
How to make both of us to do what they want ? I guess ...

**761**

votes

**248**answers

202k views

### Examples of common false beliefs in mathematics

The first thing to say is that this is not the same as the question about interesting mathematical mistakes. I am interested about the type of false beliefs that many intelligent people have while ...

**85**

votes

**2**answers

112k views

### Perfectly centered break of a perfectly aligned pool ball rack

Imagine the beginning of a game of pool, you have 16 balls, 15 of them in a triangle <| and 1 of them being the cue ball off to the left of that triangle. Imagine that the rack (the 15 balls in a ...

**222**

votes

**38**answers

93k views

### Examples of unexpected mathematical images

I try to generate a lot of examples in my research to get a better feel for what I am doing. Sometimes, I generate a plot, or a figure, that really surprises me, and makes my research take an ...

**199**

votes

**29**answers

123k views

### Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking

I once heard a joke (not a great one I'll admit...) about higher dimensional thinking that went as follows-
An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are discussing how to visualise four ...

**106**

votes

**21**answers

13k views

### Good “casual” advanced math books

I'm curious if there are any good math books out there that take a "casual approach" to higher level topics. I'm very interested in advanced math, but have lost the time as of late to study textbooks ...

**102**

votes

**1**answer

29k views

### What is the definition of the function T used in Atiyah's attempted proof of the Riemann Hypothesis?

In Michael Atiyah's paper purportedly proving the Riemann hypothesis, he relies heavily on the properties of a certain function $T(s)$, known as the Todd function. My question is, what is the ...

**32**

votes

**8**answers

177k views

### The factorial of -1, -2, -3,

Well, $n!$ is for integer $n < 0$ not defined — as yet.
So the question is:
How could a sensible generalization of the factorial for negative integers look like?
Clearly a good generalization ...

**338**

votes

**78**answers

118k views

### Video lectures of mathematics courses available online for free

It can be difficult to learn mathematics on your own from textbooks, and I often wish universities videotaped their mathematics courses and distributed them for free online. Fortunately, some ...

**84**

votes

**24**answers

13k views

### Noteworthy, but not so famous conjectures resolved recent years

Conjectures play important role in development of mathematics.
Mathoverflow gives an interaction platform for mathematicians from various fields, while in general it is not always easy to get in ...

**120**

votes

**45**answers

14k views

### Old books you would like to have reprinted with high-quality typesetting

There are some questions on mathoverflow such as
What out-of-print books would you like to see re-printed?
Old books still used
with answers that tell us things such as:
Mathematicians prefer to ...

**271**

votes

**7**answers

127k views

### Philosophy behind Mochizuki's work on the ABC conjecture

Mochizuki has recently announced a proof of the ABC conjecture. It is far too early to judge its correctness, but it builds on many years of work by him. Can someone briefly explain the philosophy ...

**63**

votes

**12**answers

90k views

### If you break a stick at two points chosen uniformly, the probability the three resulting sticks form a triangle is 1/4. Is there a nice proof of this?

There is a standard problem in elementary probability that goes as follows. Consider a stick of length 1. Pick two points uniformly at random on the stick, and break the stick at those points. What ...

**169**

votes

**20**answers

26k views

### How can a mathematician handle the pressure to discover something new?

Suppose I'm an aspiring mathematician-to-be, who started doing research. Although this is really what I love doing, I found that one disturbing point is that there's always the pressure of discovering ...

**178**

votes

**35**answers

113k views

### Best Algebraic Geometry text book? (other than Hartshorne)

I think (almost) everyone agrees that Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry is still the best.
Then what might be the 2nd best?
It can be a book, preprint, online lecture note, webpage, etc.
One suggestion ...

**88**

votes

**77**answers

20k views

### Tweetable Mathematics

Update: Please restrict your answers to "tweets" that give more than just the statement of the result, and give also the essence (or a useful hint) of the argument/novelty.
I am looking for ...

**355**

votes

**15**answers

49k views

### Why do roots of polynomials tend to have absolute value close to 1?

While playing around with Mathematica I noticed that most polynomials with real coefficients seem to have most complex zeroes very near the unit circle. For instance, if we plot all the roots of a ...

**60**

votes

**18**answers

67k views

### Reading list for basic differential geometry?

I'd like to ask if people can point me towards good books or notes to learn some basic differential geometry. I work in representation theory mostly and have found that sometimes my background is ...

**163**

votes

**45**answers

88k views

### Magic trick based on deep mathematics

I am interested in magic tricks whose explanation requires deep mathematics. The trick should be one that would actually appeal to a layman. An example is the following: the magician asks Alice to ...

**61**

votes

**12**answers

74k views

### What practical applications does set theory have?

I am a non-mathematician. I'm reading up on set theory. It's fascinating, but I wonder if it's found any 'real-world' applications yet. For instance, in high school when we were learning the ...

**113**

votes

**2**answers

45k views

### Estimating the size of solutions of a diophantine equation

A. Is there natural numbers $a,b,c$ such that $\frac{a}{b+c} + \frac{b}{a+c} + \frac{c}{a+b}$ is equal to an odd natural number ?
(I do not know any such numbers).
B. Suppose that $\frac{a}{b+c} + \...

**158**

votes

**22**answers

34k views

### The most outrageous (or ridiculous) conjectures in mathematics

The purpose of this question is to collect the most outrageous (or ridiculous) conjectures in mathematics.
An outrageous conjecture is qualified ONLY if:
1) It is most likely false
(Being hopeless ...

**260**

votes

**42**answers

77k views

### Widely accepted mathematical results that were later shown to be wrong?

Are there any examples in the history of mathematics of a mathematical proof that was initially reviewed and widely accepted as valid, only to be disproved a significant amount of time later, possibly ...

**142**

votes

**32**answers

52k views

### What is convolution intuitively?

If random variable $X$ has a probability distribution of $f(x)$ and random variable $Y$ has a probability distribution $g(x)$ then $(f*g)(x)$, the convolution of $f$ and $g$, is the probability ...

**174**

votes

**30**answers

68k views

### Real-world applications of mathematics, by arxiv subject area?

What are the most important applications outside of mathematics of each of the major fields of mathematics? For concreteness, let's divide up mathematics according to arxiv mathematics categories, e.g....

**120**

votes

**30**answers

54k views

### What are the most misleading alternate definitions in taught mathematics?

I suppose this question can be interpreted in two ways. It is often the case that two or more equivalent (but not necessarily semantically equivalent) definitions of the same idea/object are used in ...

**290**

votes

**105**answers

57k views

### Not especially famous, long-open problems which anyone can understand

Question: I'm asking for a big list of not especially famous, long open problems that anyone can understand. Community wiki, so one problem per answer, please.
Motivation: I plan to use this list ...

**47**

votes

**6**answers

8k views

### Why isn't integral defined as the area under the graph of function?

In order to define Lebesgue integral, we have to develop some measure theory. This takes some effort in the classroom, after which we need additional effort of defining Lebesgue integral (which also ...

**239**

votes

**110**answers

62k views

### What are some examples of colorful language in serious mathematics papers?

The popular MO question "Famous mathematical quotes" has turned
up many examples of witty, insightful, and humorous writing by
mathematicians. Yet, with a few exceptions such as Weyl's "angel of
...

**129**

votes

**21**answers

26k views

### Mathematical software wish list

Like many other mathematicians I use mathematical software like SAGE, GAP, Polymake, and of course $\LaTeX$ extensively. When I chat with colleagues about such software tools, very often someone has ...

**146**

votes

**58**answers

75k views

### Interesting mathematical documentaries

I am looking for mathematical documentaries, both technical and non-technical. They should be "interesting" in that they present either actual mathematics, mathematicians or history of mathematics. I ...

**127**

votes

**26**answers

32k views

### Has philosophy ever clarified mathematics?

I've recently been reading some standard textbooks on the philosophy of mathematics, and I've become quite frustrated that (surely due to my own limitations) I don't seem to be gleaning any ...

**185**

votes

**11**answers

53k views

### Have any long-suspected irrational numbers turned out to be rational?

The history of proving numbers irrational is full of interesting stories, from the ancient proofs for $\sqrt{2}$, to Lambert's irrationality proof for $\pi$, to Roger Apéry's surprise demonstration ...

**54**

votes

**8**answers

33k views

### Example of a good Zero Knowledge Proof.

I am working on my zero knowledge proofs and I am looking for a good example of a real world proof of this type. An even better answer would be a Zero Knowledge Proof that shows the statement isn't ...

**34**

votes

**6**answers

68k views

### Fourier vs Laplace transforms

In solving a linear system, when would I use a Fourier transform versus a Laplace transform? I am not a mathematician, so the little intuition I have tells me that it could be related to the boundary ...

**131**

votes

**45**answers

23k views

### 17 camels trick

The following popular mathematical parable is well known:
A father left 17 camels to his three sons and, according to the will, the eldest son should be given a half of all camels, the middle son ...

**145**

votes

**36**answers

32k views

### Most harmful heuristic?

What's the most harmful heuristic (towards proper mathematics education), you've seen taught/accidentally taught/were taught? When did handwaving inhibit proper learning?

**61**

votes

**12**answers

48k views

### Why is the gradient normal?

This is a somewhat long discussion so please bear with me. There is a theorem that I have always been curious about from an intuitive standpoint and that has been glossed over in most textbooks I ...

**109**

votes

**17**answers

47k views

### Periods and commas in mathematical writing

I just realized that I am a barbarian when it comes to writing. But I am not entirely sure, so this might be the right place to ask. When typing display-mode formulae do you guys add a period after ...

**253**

votes

**26**answers

45k views

### Geometric Interpretation of Trace

This afternoon I was speaking with some graduate students in the department and we came to the following quandry;
Is there a geometric interpretation of the trace of a matrix?
This question should ...

**70**

votes

**4**answers

17k views

### The enigmatic complexity of number theory

One of the most salient aspects of the discipline of number theory is that from a very small number of definitions, entities and axioms one is led to an extraordinary wealth and diversity of theorems, ...

**38**

votes

**18**answers

61k views

### Suggestions for a good Measure Theory book

I have taken analysis and have looked at different measures, but I am currently looking at realizing a certain problem in a different light and feel that I need a better background in various measures ...

**110**

votes

**61**answers

13k views

### Nonequivalent definitions in Mathematics

I would like to ask if anyone could share any specific experiences of
discovering nonequivalent definitions in their field of mathematical research.
By that I mean discovering that in different ...

**100**

votes

**53**answers

44k views

### Which popular games are the most mathematical?

I consider a game to be mathematical if there is interesting mathematics (to a mathematician) involved in
the game's structure,
optimal strategies,
practical strategies,
analysis of the game ...

**6**

votes

**4**answers

49k views

### Lorentzian vs Gaussian Fitting Functions

This is probably too general a question to ask without some specific context, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway:
What are the practical differences between using a Lorentzian function and using ...

**147**

votes

**29**answers

27k views

### Proposals for polymath projects

Background
Polymath projects are a form of open Internet collaboration aimed towards a major mathematical goal, usually to settle a major mathematical problem. This is a concept introduced in 2009 by ...

**124**

votes

**11**answers

17k views

### Do you know important theorems that remain unknown?

Do you know of any very important theorems that remain unknown? I mean results that could easily make into textbooks or research monographs, but almost
nobody knows about them. If you provide an ...

**67**

votes

**23**answers

17k views

### Which popular games have been studied mathematically?

I'm planning out some research projects I could do with undergraduates, and it struck me that problems analyzing games might be appropriate. As an abstract homotopy theorist, I have no experience with ...

**102**

votes

**11**answers

10k views

### Examples of notably long or difficult proofs that only improve upon existing results by a small amount

I was recently reading Bui, Conrey and Young's 2011 paper "More than 41% of the zeros of the zeta function are on the critical line", in which they improve the lower bound on the proportion of zeros ...