**488**

votes

**199**answers

124k 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 ...

**345**

votes

**2**answers

26k views

### Polynomial bijection from $\mathbb Q\times\mathbb Q$ to $\mathbb Q$?

Is there any polynomial $f(x,y)\in{\mathbb Q}[x,y]{}\ $ such that $f:\mathbb{Q}\times\mathbb{Q} \rightarrow\mathbb{Q}$ is a bijection?

**246**

votes

**15**answers

34k 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 ...

**224**

votes

**72**answers

88k 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 ...

**215**

votes

**21**answers

26k views

### Thinking and Explaining

How big a gap is there between how you think about mathematics and what you say to others? Do you say what you're thinking? Please give either personal examples of how your thoughts and words ...

**204**

votes

**67**answers

98k 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 ...

**201**

votes

**7**answers

13k views

### Polynomial representing all nonnegative integers

Lagrange proved that every nonnegative integer is a sum of 4 squares.
Gauss proved that every nonnegative integer is a sum of 3 triangular numbers.
Is there a 2-variable polynomial $f(x,y) \in ...

**191**

votes

**7**answers

95k 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 ...

**190**

votes

**9**answers

16k views

### John Nash's Mathematical Legacy

It would seem that John Nash and his wife Alicia died tragically in a car accident on May 23, 2015 (reference). My condolences to his family and friends.
Maybe this is an appropriate time to ask a ...

**186**

votes

**97**answers

31k 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 ...

**167**

votes

**109**answers

44k views

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

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
...

**167**

votes

**30**answers

16k views

### Which journals publish expository work?

I wonder if anyone else has noticed that the market for expository papers in mathematics is very narrow (more so than it used to be, perhaps).
Are there any journals which publish expository work, ...

**167**

votes

**11**answers

14k views

### Refereeing a Paper [closed]

I've refereed at least a dozen papers in my (short) career so far and I still find the process completely baffling. I'm wondering what is actually expected and what people tend to do...
Some things ...

**155**

votes

**8**answers

8k views

### Two commuting mappings in the disk

Suppose that $f$ and $g$ are two commuting continuous mappings from the closed unit disk (or, if you prefer, the closed unit ball in $R^n$) to itself. Does there always exist a point $x$ such that ...

**152**

votes

**41**answers

58k views

### A single paper everyone should read? [closed]

Different people like different things in math, but sometimes you stand in awe before a beautiful and simple, but not universally known, result that you want to share with any of your colleagues.
Do ...

**150**

votes

**35**answers

34k views

### Why is a topology made up of 'open' sets? [closed]

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don't think I've ever been able to genuinely motivate the definition of a topological space in an undergraduate course. Clearly, the definition distills the essence of ...

**148**

votes

**64**answers

25k views

### Proofs that require fundamentally new ways of thinking [closed]

I do not know exactly how to characterize the class of proofs that interests me, so let me give some examples and say why I would be interested in more. Perhaps what the examples have in common is ...

**148**

votes

**36**answers

40k views

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

I wonder if there are 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 ...

**141**

votes

**20**answers

19k 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 ...

**137**

votes

**67**answers

45k views

### Awfully sophisticated proof for simple facts [closed]

It is sometimes the case that one can produce proofs of simple facts that are of disproportionate sophistication which, however, do not involve any circularity. For example, (I think) I gave an ...

**137**

votes

**16**answers

56k views

### What's a mathematician to do? [closed]

I have to apologize because this is not the normal sort of question for this site, but there have been times in the past where MO was remarkably helpful and kind to undergrads with similar types of ...

**136**

votes

**27**answers

16k views

### What are some reasonable-sounding statements that are independent of ZFC?

Every now and then, somebody will tell me about a question. When I start thinking about it, they say, "actually, it's undecidable in ZFC."
For example, suppose A is an abelian group such that every ...

**136**

votes

**3**answers

7k views

### A Game on Noetherian Rings

A friend suggested the following combinatorial game. At any time, the state of the game is a (commutative) Noetherian ring $\neq 0$. On a player's turn, that player chooses a nonzero non-unit element ...

**135**

votes

**14**answers

9k views

### What elementary problems can you solve with schemes?

I'm a graduate student who's been learning about schemes this year from the usual sources (e.g. Hartshorne, Eisenbud-Harris, Ravi Vakil's notes). I'm looking for some examples of elementary ...

**131**

votes

**132**answers

29k views

### Fundamental Examples

It is not unusual that a single example or a very few shape an entire mathematical discipline. Can you give examples for such examples? (One example, or few, per post, please)
I'd love to learn about ...

**129**

votes

**11**answers

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 ...

**128**

votes

**72**answers

22k views

### Your favorite surprising connections in Mathematics

There are certain things in mathematics that have caused me a pleasant surprise -- when some part of mathematics is brought to bear in a fundamental way on another, where the connection between the ...

**128**

votes

**31**answers

16k views

### What should be learned in a first serious schemes course?

I've just finished teaching a year-long "foundations of algebraic
geometry" class. It
was my third time teaching it, and my notes are gradually converging.
I've enjoyed it for a number of reasons ...

**128**

votes

**0**answers

6k views

### Grothendieck -sad news [closed]

Sorry for that this is not a real question. But I thought people would like to know.
Alexandre Grothendieck died today: ...

**127**

votes

**30**answers

45k 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, ...

**127**

votes

**0**answers

11k views

### Ultrafilters and automorphisms of the complex field

It is well-known that it is consistent with $ZF$ that the only automorphisms of the complex field $\mathbb{C}$ are the identity map and complex conjugation. For example, we have that ...

**125**

votes

**36**answers

22k views

### Demonstrating that rigour is important

Any pure mathematician will from time to time discuss, or think about, the question of why we care about proofs, or to put the question in a more precise form, why we seem to be so much happier with ...

**125**

votes

**3**answers

6k views

### Is $\mathbb R^3$ the square of some topological space?

The other day, I was idly considering when a topological space has a square root. That is, what spaces are homeomorphic to $X \times X$ for some space $X$. $\mathbb{R}$ is not such a space: If $X ...

**122**

votes

**43**answers

68k 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 ...

**121**

votes

**8**answers

4k views

### Resources for mathematics advising.

This question is possibly ill-advised. (If it is not right for this site I will delete it.)
I, suddenly, have students.
It is very clear to me that there is nothing in my education that has ...

**120**

votes

**76**answers

39k views

### Best online mathematics videos?

I know of two good mathematics videos available online, namely:
Sphere inside out (part I and part II)
Moebius transformation revealed
Do you know of any other good math videos? Share.

**120**

votes

**6**answers

42k views

### Where to buy premium white chalk in the U.S., like they have at RIMS?

While not a research-level math question, I'm sure this is a question of interest to many research-level mathematicians, whose expertise I seek.
At RIMS (in Kyoto) in 2005, they had the best white ...

**117**

votes

**64**answers

15k views

### Suggestions for good notation

I occasionally come across a new piece of notation so good that it makes life easier by giving a better way to look at something. Some examples:
Iverson introduced the notation [X] to mean 1 if X is ...

**115**

votes

**15**answers

21k views

### Why worry about the axiom of choice?

As I understand it, it has been proven that the axiom of choice is independent of the other axioms of set theory. Yet I still see people fuss about whether or not theorem X depends on it, and I don't ...

**114**

votes

**26**answers

26k 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 ...

**112**

votes

**69**answers

22k views

### Which math paper maximizes the ratio (importance)/(length)?

My vote would be Milnor's 7-page paper "On manifolds homeomorphic to the 7-sphere", in Vol. 64 of Annals of Math. For those who have not read it, he explicitly constructs smooth 7-manifolds which are ...

**112**

votes

**33**answers

62k 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 ...

**111**

votes

**16**answers

15k views

### How do I make the conceptual transition from multivariable calculus to differential forms?

One way to define the algebra of differential forms $\Omega(M)$ on a smooth manifold $M$ (as explained by John Baez's week287) is as the exterior algebra of the dual of the module of derivations on ...

**110**

votes

**56**answers

23k views

### What are your favorite instructional counterexamples?

Related: question #879, Most interesting mathematics mistake. But the intent of this question is more pedagogical.
In many branches of mathematics, it seems to me that a good counterexample can be ...

**110**

votes

**10**answers

13k views

### Is there an introduction to probability theory from a structuralist/categorical perspective?

The title really is the question, but allow me to explain.
I am a pure mathematician working outside of probability theory, but the concepts and techniques of probability theory (in the sense of ...

**110**

votes

**15**answers

12k views

### When and how is it appropriate for an undergraduate to email a professor out of the blue?

This may not be appropriate for MathOverflow, as I haven't seen precedent for this type of question. But the answer is certainly of interest to me, and (I think) would be of interest to many other ...

**110**

votes

**7**answers

8k views

### Does $\mathrm{Aut}(\mathrm{Aut}(…\mathrm{Aut}(G)…))$ stabilize?

Purely for fun, I was playing around with iteratively applying $\DeclareMathOperator{\Aut}{Aut}\Aut$ to a group $G$; that is, studying groups of the form
$$ {\Aut}^n(G):= \Aut(\Aut(...\Aut(G)...)) $$
...

**110**

votes

**7**answers

9k views

### Proofs of Bott periodicity

K-theory sits in an intersection of a whole bunch of different fields, which has resulted in a huge variety of proof techniques for its basic results. For instance, here's a scattering of proofs of ...

**108**

votes

**7**answers

10k views

### How to memorise (understand) Nakayama's lemma and its corollaries?

Nakayama's lemma is mentioned in the majority of books on algebraic geometry that treat varieties. So I think Ihave read the formulation of this lemma at least 20 times (and read the proof maybe ...

**107**

votes

**8**answers

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 $[0,1]$ ...