Questions tagged [motivation]

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290 votes
8 answers
137k 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 ...
116 votes
18 answers
13k views

How do you decide whether a question in abstract algebra is worth studying?

Dear MO-community, I am not sure how mature my view on this is and I might say some things that are controversial. I welcome contradicting views. In any case, I find it important to clarify this in my ...
92 votes
10 answers
21k views

Motivation for algebraic K-theory?

I'm looking for a big-picture treatment of algebraic K-theory and why it's important. I've seen various abstract definitions (Quillen's plus and Q constructions, some spectral constructions like ...
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64 votes
4 answers
4k views

Why did Voevodsky consider categories "posets in the next dimension", and groupoids the correct generalisation of sets?

Earlier today, I stumbled upon this article written by V. Voevodsky about the "philosophy" behind the Univalent Foundations program. I had read it before around the time of his passing, and one ...
60 votes
5 answers
16k views

Why tropical geometry?

Tropical geometry can be described as "algebraic geometry" over the semifield $\mathbb{T}$ of tropical numbers. As a set, $\mathbb{T}=\mathbb{R}\cup \{ -\infty\}$; this is endowed with addition being ...
60 votes
4 answers
9k views

Is there a good way to think of vanishing cycles and nearby cycles?

Once in a while I run into literature that invokes vanishing cycle machinery with a cryptic sentence like, "this follows from a standard vanishing cycle argument." Is there a good way to look at ...
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55 votes
5 answers
8k views

Why are spectral sequences so ubiquitous?

I sort of understand the definition of a spectral sequence and am aware that it is an indispensable tool in modern algebraic geometry and topology. But why is this the case, and what can one do with ...
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55 votes
10 answers
4k views

Books/websites which have motivating stories of mathematicians overcoming hardships in life

Edit 1: I have received a lot of great answers. I am not accepting any answer because I think there might be in future that some user want to contribute any new answer, as in my opinion some users ...
42 votes
4 answers
6k views

What motivates modern algebraic geometry for a combinatorial/constructive algebraist?

This is, basically, me trying to generalize "Why should I care for sheaves and schemes?" into a reasonable question. Whether successfully, time will tell, but let me hope that if not the question, ...
40 votes
12 answers
6k views

Why is the definition of the higher homotopy groups the "right one"?

If someone asked me the question for the fundamental group, I would answer as follows: The connection to classification of covering spaces. The fundamental group of many spaces is an object of ...
40 votes
6 answers
3k views

What motivations for automorphic forms?

Automorphic forms are ubiquitous in modern number theory and stands as a mysterious Graal lying at the intersection of many fields, if not building valuable bridges between them. However, since this ...
35 votes
6 answers
5k views

Applications of noncommutative geometry

This is related to Anweshi's question about theories of noncommutative geometry. Let's start out by saying that I live, mostly, in a commutative universe. The only noncommutative rings I have much ...
29 votes
8 answers
7k views

Are quivers useful outside of Representation Theory?

Dear All! There is a trend, for some people, to study representations of quivers. The setting of the problem is undoubtedly natural, but representations of quivers are present in the literature for ...
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26 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why did Euler consider the zeta function?

Many zeta functions and L-functions which are generalizations of the Riemann zeta function play very important roles in modern mathematics (Kummer criterion, class number formula, Weil conjecture, BSD ...
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26 votes
1 answer
1k views

Motivation for relative schemes: why should one work with schemes over a ringed topos?

Recently I've been trying to learn more about relative schemes. These were developed in M. Hakim's thesis Topos annelés et schémas relatifs under Grothendieck's guidance and appear in many of later ...
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25 votes
3 answers
4k views

Why to believe the Fargues geometrization conjecture?

In the study of the arithmetic local Langlands correspondence, there is a conjecture that was recently (in this decade) formulated by Fargues. I can't even concisely state the conjecture so I will ...
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24 votes
10 answers
4k views

Why localize spaces with respect to homology?

A basic construction in algebraic topology is the localization of spaces or spectra with respect to a homology theory: one formally inverts the $E$-homology isomorphisms, reflecting each space into ...
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24 votes
5 answers
2k views

Why are subfactors interesting?

I get asked this question a lot, and am not very happy with any of the answers. Vaguely I think of subfactor theory as a generalization of representation theory of groups. That is, if you have a ...
22 votes
2 answers
1k views

Nice application of generalized smooth spaces

I am a fan of category theory in general, and I appreciate that various brands of generalized smooth spaces (Diffeological spaces, Chen spaces, Frolicher spaces ...) form much nicer categories of ...
21 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why symplectic geometry gives Poisson geometry

One way I've learned to understand Poisson geometry is to consider it as symplectic geometry with no open conditions - i.e. no condition of nondegeneracy. This idea can be applied to many other ...
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20 votes
6 answers
2k views

Are rings really more fundamental objects than semi-rings?

The discovery (or invention) of negatives, which happened several centuries ago by the Chinese, Indians and Arabs, has of course be of fundamental importance to mathematics. From then on, it seems ...
18 votes
7 answers
5k views

Fundamental motivation for several complex variables [closed]

I have 3 general abstract reasons to care about complex analysis in a single variable: The laplacian is, up to a constant multiple, the only isometry invariant PDO in the plane, and so it is ...
18 votes
3 answers
3k views

Understanding iterated integrals

I have encountered iterated integrals on papers dealing with multizeta values, polylogarithms etc.. Since then I am trying to figure out the motivations and purpose of the theory. It seems the ...
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18 votes
4 answers
3k views

Motivation for the Preprojective Algebra

Let $Q=(Q_0,Q_1)$ be a quiver and $k$ a field. We construct a new quiver $\bar{Q}$ in the following way. Let the vertices of $\bar{Q}$ be the same as the vertices of $Q$, and let the arrows of $\bar{Q}...
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17 votes
2 answers
1k views

Commutative rings : Topoi = Fields :?

The following is probably a bad question, but hopefully, it might have a very good answer. In category theory there is a quite famous analogy between topoi and commutative rings, I was never ...
17 votes
0 answers
672 views

What are hyperkähler metrics used for?

It seems that a lot of effort has been devoted to endow holomorphic-symplectic manifolds with hyperkähler metrics. It started with Calabi [4] with $T^*\mathbb{CP}^n$. Other examples include coadjoint ...
16 votes
6 answers
22k views

How to understand the concept of compact space [closed]

the definition of compact space is: A subset K of a metric space X is said to be compact if every open cover of K contains finite subcovers. What is the meaning of defining a space is "compact". I ...
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15 votes
3 answers
2k views

Motivation for equivariant homotopy theory?

I'm in the process of learning equivariant homotopy theory, so I was wondering: what is the importance of equivariant homotopy theory, and what has it been applied to so far? I know of HHR's solution ...
15 votes
0 answers
2k views

Why do we study symplectic geometry? [closed]

What is the motivation behind studying smooth manifolds with a non-degenerate closed two-form? The subject certainly originated from physics, but is there a deeper reason for why it is still an ...
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14 votes
4 answers
3k views

Is modern computability theory "really" about algorithms?

Apologies if my question seems overly naive, but I haven't seen/heard/read any good answers. What is modern computability theory "really" about? The study of feasible(even remotely feasible) ...
13 votes
9 answers
4k views

How to motivate the skein relations?

I am teaching an advanced undergraduate class on topology. We are doing introductory knot theory at the moment. One of my students asked how do we know to use this skein relation to compute all these ...
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13 votes
1 answer
2k views

Entering to the K-theory realm

I am looking for a guidance in $K$-theory. My master thesis was in the field of Algebraic K-theory and its relation and interaction with the field of Algebraic Topology. I mainly had concentrated on ...
12 votes
4 answers
2k views

applications of Berkovich spaces

What are applications of the theory of Berkovich analytic spaces? The analytification $X \mapsto X^{\mathrm{an}}$
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12 votes
3 answers
1k views

Motivation for uniform surjectivity of mod l representations associated to elliptic curves

Background Let $E$ be an elliptic curve over $\mathbb{Q}$ and let $G_{\mathbb{Q}}$ be the absolute Galois group $Aut(\overline{\mathbb{Q}})$. For any positive integer $n$ the $n$-torsion subgroup $E[...
12 votes
1 answer
3k views

Why are Galois Representations so important in Number theory ?

Dear everyone, Motivation : From the past few days, I have been reading about the Galois Representations . I was really amazed to see that every seminal idea in the theory of elliptic curves have ...
11 votes
6 answers
3k views

applications of Tate-Poitou duality

What are nice applications of Tate-Poitou duality?
11 votes
2 answers
952 views

What is the significance of Friedlander-Iwaniec and related theorems?

On p.177 of Number Theory Revealed: A Masterclass by Andrew Granville, the author states that "One can ask for prime values of polynomials in two or more variables." (though he later ...
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10 votes
3 answers
2k views

Simple motivation to study arithmetic geometry

Is there a simple-to-understand diophantine equation (in the sense that it's easy to explain to a child) that has a positive integer solution, but to prove that such a solution exists and to find it ...
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9 votes
3 answers
890 views

Why doesn't this group have a name?

$$\{A\in GL_n(\mathbb{C}) : |det(A)|=1\}$$ This seems to me to be a perfectly natural group to study; it is easy to define and contains $U(n), SL_n$, and all the torsion. Is there any good reason ...
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9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Why the circle for Pontryagin duality? [duplicate]

For a locally compact group $G$, we define the Pontryagin dual as $\hat G = Hom(G,\mathbb T)$ where $\mathbb T$ is the circle group and the homomorphisms are continuous group maps. This duality has a ...
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8 votes
0 answers
255 views

Motivating derived stacks via Euclidean geometry

Here (see Section 3) triangles in Euclidean plane are used to motivate the notion of DM stack (an equilateral triangle has more symmetries than a generic triangle). Can something similar be done to ...
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7 votes
2 answers
242 views

Motivations for the study of dual connections

I am intrigued by the notion of dual connections: two affine connections $\nabla$ and $\nabla^*$ are called dual if they satisfy $$X(g(Y,Z))=g(\nabla_XY,Z)+g(Y,\nabla^*_XZ)$$ for a given (pseudo)-...
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7 votes
1 answer
298 views

Are large cardinals about more than just consistency?

The other day, I was reading the preface of Kanamori's The Higher Infinite and noticed that he says large cardinals provide a useful 'measuring stick' for consistency. That raised the question of ...
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7 votes
0 answers
681 views

Snazzy applications of Several Complex Variables techniques

I am starting to dive into a study of Several Complex Variables. I would like to have a few guiding examples of "big payoffs". These should be very natural sounding theorems which depend on a lot of ...
6 votes
3 answers
2k views

Examples of high level math that can be motivated to laypeople

One of the difficulties of mathematics over other sciences is that our problems are harder to motivate to a general audience. A biologist studying a particular pathway in the body can say that he's ...
5 votes
2 answers
559 views

Motivation for the covariant model structure on SSet/S

I was reading HTT 2.1.4, and I just totally lost what was going on. Could someone provide some motivation for this section? Why do we want another model structure? I'm sorry for not providing ...
5 votes
1 answer
458 views

What is the natural motivation for smooth/étale/unramified morphisms restricting from formally smooth/étale/unramified morphisms?

(I asked it first in MathStackExchange but I haven't get an answer yet) Smooth (resp. étale) morphisms are just locally finitely presented + formally smooth (resp. étale) morphisms. For unramified ...
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5 votes
0 answers
885 views

Relative cohomology in algebraic topology vs algebraic geometry

There is a notion of relative cohomology in both algebraic topology and algebraic geometry and the flexibility granted by this relative viewpoint is quite powerful in both cases. However, the two ...
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4 votes
0 answers
403 views

Motivation for studying group of homeomorphisms of topological spaces [closed]

Currently I am reading a paper titled "On the Group of Homeomorphisms of an Arc" by N.J Fine and G.E. Schweigert, that was published by Annals of Mathematics in 1955. This paper talks about the group ...
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3 votes
2 answers
447 views

Bounded Cohomology Motivation

May I ask what is the basic motivation behind studying bounded cohomology? Is there a simple reason why bounded cohomology is more interesting / useful than usual cohomology? Also, is bounded ...
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