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129
votes
11answers
41k 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 ...
104
votes
8answers
11k views

If $f$ is infinitely differentiable then $f$ coincides with a polynomial

Let $f$ be an infinitely differentiable function on $[0,1]$ and suppose that for each $x \in [0,1]$ there is an integer $n \in \mathbb{N}$ such that $f^{(n)}(x)=0$. Then does $f$ coincide on $[0,1]$ ...
78
votes
17answers
17k views

Why is differentiating mechanics and integration art?

It is often said that "Differentiation is mechanics, integration is art." We have more or less simple rules in one direction but not in the other (e.g. product rule/simple <-> integration by ...
67
votes
9answers
18k views

solving f(f(x))=g(x)

This question is of course inspired by the question How to solve f(f(x))=cosx and Joel David Hamkins' answer, which somehow gives a formal trick for solving equations of the form $f(f(x))=g(x)$ on a ...
58
votes
32answers
38k 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 ...
57
votes
5answers
3k views

Does pointwise convergence imply uniform convergence on a large subset?

Suppose $f_n$ is a sequence of real valued functions on $[0,1]$ which converges pointwise to zero. Is there an uncountable subset $A$ of $[0,1]$ so that $f_n$ converges uniformly on $A$? Is there a ...
54
votes
18answers
6k views

Proofs of the uncountability of the reals.

Recently, I learnt in my analysis class the proof of the uncountability of the reals via the Nested Interval Theorem. At first, I was excited to see a variant proof (as it did not use the diagonal ...
52
votes
9answers
3k views

Taking “Zooming in on a point of a graph” seriously

In calculus classes it is sometimes said that the tangent line to a curve at a point is the line that we get by "zooming in" on that point with an infinitely powerful microscope. This explanation ...
50
votes
8answers
7k views

Why is Lebesgue integration taught using positive and negative parts of functions?

Background: When I first took measure theory/integration, I was bothered by the idea that the integral of a real-valued function w.r.t. a measure was defined first for nonnegative functions and only ...
48
votes
4answers
2k views

When has the Borel-Cantelli heuristic been wrong?

The Borel-Cantelli lemma is very frequently used to give a heuristic for whether or not certain statements in number theory are true. For example, it gives some evidence that there are finitely many ...
46
votes
16answers
10k views

f(f(x))=exp(x)-1 and other functions “just in the middle” between linear and exponential

The question is about the function f(x) so that f(f(x))=exp (x)-1. The question is open ended and it was discussed quite recently in the comment thread in Aaronson's blog here ...
43
votes
2answers
2k views

Is a function with nowhere vanishing derivatives analytic?

My question is the following: Let $f\in C^\infty(a,b)$, such that $f^{(n)}(x)\ne 0$, for every $n\in\mathbb N$, and every $x\in (a,b)$. Does that imply that $f$ is real analytic? EDIT. According to a ...
38
votes
1answer
409 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 ...
34
votes
6answers
2k views

On an example of an eventually oscillating function

For $x\in(0,1)$, put $$f(x):=\sum_{n=0}^{\infty}(-1)^{n}x^{2^{n}}.$$ This function possesses interesting properties. It grows monotonically from $0$ up to certain point. Then it starts to oscillate ...
34
votes
4answers
2k views

Smooth functions for which $f(x)$ is rational if and only if $x$ is rational

A friend of mine introduced me to the following question: Does there exist a smooth function $f: \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R}$, ($f \in C^\infty$), such that $f$ maps rationals to rationals and ...
32
votes
7answers
5k views

Are some numbers more irrational than others?

Some irrational numbers are transcendental, which makes them in some sense "more irrational" than algebraic numbers. There are also numbers, such as the golden ratio $\varphi$, which are poorly ...
31
votes
19answers
6k 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 ...
31
votes
1answer
996 views

Is $π$ definable in $(\Bbb R,0,1,+,×,<,\exp)$?

(This question is originally from Math.SE, where it didn't receive any answers.) Is there a first-order formula $\phi(x) $ with exactly one free variable $ x $ in the language of ordered fields ...
30
votes
2answers
960 views

Square root of a positive $C^\infty$ function.

Suppose $f$ is a $C^\infty$ function from the reals to the reals that is never negative. Does it have a $C^\infty$ square root? Clearly the only problem points are those at which $f$ vanishes.
30
votes
1answer
738 views

For which maps $S^1\to S^1$ is the winding number defined?

There are two classes of maps $S^1\to S^1$ for which I know how to define the winding number: • Continuous maps: Using the unique path lifting property of the universal covering map $\mathbb R\to ...
30
votes
1answer
2k views

What did Rolle prove when he proved Rolle's theorem?

Rolle published what we today call Rolle's theorem about 150 years before the arithmetization of the reals. Unfortunately this proof seems to have been buried in a long book [Rolle 1691] that I can't ...
30
votes
1answer
2k views

An Entropy Inequality

Let $X,Y$ be probability measures on $\{1,2,\dots,n\}$, and set $K=\sum_i\sqrt{X(i)Y(i)}$ so that $Z:=\frac{1}{K}\sqrt{XY}$ is also a probability measure on $\{1,2,\dots,n\}$. How can we prove the ...
29
votes
1answer
1k views

Every real function has a dense set on which its restriction is continuous

The title says it all: if $f\colon \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R}$ is any real function, there exists a dense subset $D$ of $\mathbb{R}$ such that $f|_D$ is continuous. Or so I'm told, but this leaves me ...
29
votes
3answers
3k views

The Hardy Z-function and failure of the Riemann hypothesis

David Feldman asked whether it would be reasonable for the Riemann hypothesis to be false, but for the Riemann zeta function to only have finitely many zeros off the critical line. I very rashly ...
28
votes
2answers
3k views

“Closed-form” functions with half-exponential growth

Let's call a function f:N→N half-exponential if there exist constants 1<c<d such that for all sufficiently large n, cn < f(f(n)) < dn. Then my question is this: can we prove that no ...
28
votes
2answers
2k views

Everywhere differentiable function that is nowhere monotonic

It is well known that there are functions $f \colon \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R}$ that are everywhere continuous but nowhere monotonic (i.e. the restriction of $f$ to any non-trivial interval $[a,b]$ is ...
27
votes
2answers
953 views

Continuous functions $f$ with $f(A)$ linearly independent when $A$ is independent

Is there any characterization of continuous functions $f : \Bbb{R}\longrightarrow \Bbb{R}$ such that for any linearly independent set $A$ (over the rationals) $f(A)$ is also linearly independent ?
27
votes
0answers
1k views

Prove that there exists $n\in\mathbb{N}$ such that $f^{(n)}$ has at least n+1 zeros on $(-1,1)$

Let $f\in C^{\infty}(\mathbb{R},\mathbb{R})$ such that $f(x)=0$ on $\mathbb{R}\setminus (-1,1)$. Prove that there exists $n\in\mathbb{N}$ such that $f^{(n)}$ has at least $n+1$ zeros on $(-1,1)$ ...
26
votes
5answers
2k views

Differentiable functions with discontinuous derivatives

For years I've taught my honors calculus students about functions like (the continuous extension of) $x^2 \sin 1/x$, and for just as many years I've told them that they won't encounter functions like ...
25
votes
9answers
1k views

Continuous relations?

What might it mean for a relation $R\subset X\times Y$ to be continuous? In topology, category theory or in analysis? Is it possible, canonical, useful? I have a vague idea of the possibility of ...
25
votes
1answer
1k views

Is pi = log_a(b) for some integers a, b > 1?

Are there integers $a, b > 1$ such that $\pi = \log_a(b)$? Or equivalently: are there integers $a,b > 1$ such that $a^\pi = b$? Note that the transcendence of $\pi$ makes this a problem - ...
24
votes
2answers
1k views

Is $\sum_{k=1}^{n} \sin(k^2)$ bounded by a constant $M$?

I know $\sum_{k=1}^{n} \sin(k)$ is bounded by a constant. How about $\sum_{k=1}^{n} \sin(k^2)$?
23
votes
4answers
1k views

is f a polynomial provided that it is “partially” smooth?

Let $f$ be a $C^\infty$ function on $(c,d)$ ,and let $O=\cup_{n\in \mathbb{Z}^+} (a_n,b_n)$ where $(a_n,b_n)$ are disjoint open interval in $(c,d)$ and $O$ is dense in $(c,d)$. Suppose for each $n\in ...
23
votes
4answers
5k views

Integrability of derivatives

Is there a (preferably simple) example of a function $f:(a,b)\to \mathbb{R}$ which is everywhere differentiable, such that $f'$ is not Riemann integrable? I ask for pedagogical reasons. Results in ...
23
votes
2answers
718 views

Codimension of Measurable Sets

I am currently teaching an advanced undergraduate analysis class, and the following question came up. Intuition suggests that "most" subsets of $[0,1]$ are not Lebesgue measurable. However, the ...
22
votes
9answers
15k views

Is square of Delta function defined somewhere?

Hello, every one. I am wondering whether any one knows that whether the square of Dirac Delta function is defined some where? In the beginning, this question might look strange. But by restricting ...
22
votes
7answers
2k views

Rolle's theorem in n dimensions

This looks like a statement from a calculus textbook, which perhaps it should be. "Rolle's theorem". Let $F\colon [a,b]\to\mathbb R^n$ be a continuous function such that F(a)=F(b) and F'(t) exists ...
22
votes
2answers
1k views

Analogues of Luzin's theorem

If $X$ is a compact metric space and $\mu$ is a Borel probability measure on $X$, then the space $C(X)$ of continuous real-valued functions on $X$ is a closed nowhere dense subset of ...
22
votes
1answer
399 views

Which ordered fields are homeomorphic to their power?

It is well known that $\mathbb{R}^2\ncong \mathbb{R}$. It is also known that $\mathbb{Q}^2\cong \mathbb{Q}$. It is a corollary to Sierpiński's theorem which states that every countable metric space ...
21
votes
8answers
5k views

Can Cantor set be the zero set of a continuous function?

More generally, can the zero set $V(f)$ of a continuous function $f : \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R}$ be nowhere dense and uncountable? What if $f$ is smooth? About two days ago I discovered that in this ...
20
votes
4answers
1k views

Which is the correct ring of functions for a topological space?

There is a fact that I should have learned a long time ago, but never did; I was reminded that I did not know the answer by Qiaochu's excellent series of posts, the most recent of which is this one. ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

Dual of bounded uniformly continuous functions

Let $(X,d)$ be a metric space, and let $C_u(X)$ be the Banach space of bounded uniformly continuous functions on $X$ (with the uniform norm). How can I characterize its dual space $C_u(X)^*$? I ...
20
votes
2answers
584 views

Which smooth compactly supported functions are convolutions?

If $f,g$ are smooth functions with support in the interval $[-r,r]$ for some $r>0$, then their convolution $f*g$ is smooth with support in $[-2r,2r]$. My question is about the converse: Given ...
19
votes
9answers
3k views

Function with range equal to whole reals on every open set

There is an example of a function that is unbounded on every open set. Just take $f(n/m) = m$ for coprime $n$ and $m$ and $f(irrational) = 0$. I want to generalize this in a way to get a function ...
19
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 ...
19
votes
3answers
919 views

Is there a function defined on real numbers which is continuous from the left, but not from the right, everywhere

I am teaching Mathematical analysis. A student asked this question. I think this is a good question, but don't know the answer.
19
votes
2answers
3k views

Is this statement which relates the Fourier transform of a function to its singularities correct?

I am working on a problem, which would possibly relate the Fourier transform/series with the jump singularities of the function where the function itself or one of its derivatives jump. ((some kind of ...
18
votes
12answers
3k views

Looking for an interesting problem/riddle involving triple integrals.

Does anyone know some good problem in real analysis, the solution of which involves triple integrals, and which is suitable for second semester Analysis students? Thanks!
18
votes
4answers
2k views

Is a random subset of the real numbers non-measurable? Is the set of measurable sets measurable?

One might say, "a random subset of $\mathbb{R}$ is not Lebesgue measurable" without really thinking about it. But if we unpack the standard definitions of all those terms (and work in ZFC), it's not ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Prime ideals in the ring of germs of continuous functions

We all know that the ring of germs of continuous functions at a point on, say $\mathbb{R}$, has a unique maximal ideal- namely, those functions that vanish at that point. Can anyone think of a single ...