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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 ...
37k views

Important formulas in combinatorics

Motivation: The poster for the conference celebrating Noga Alon's 60th birthday, fifteen formulas describing some of Alon's work are presented. (See this post, for the poster, and cash prizes offered ...
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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 ...
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Finding a 1-form adapted to a smooth flow

Let $M$ be a smooth compact manifold, and let $X$ be a smooth vector field of $M$ that is nowhere vanishing, thus one can think of the pair $(M,X)$ as a smooth flow with no fixed points. Let us say ...
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Mathematical "urban legends"

When I was a young and impressionable graduate student at Princeton, we scared each other with the story of a Final Public Oral, where Jack Milnor was dragged in against his will to sit on a committee,...
18k views

How small can a sum of a few roots of unity be?

Let $n$ be a large natural number, and let $z_1, \ldots, z_{10}$ be (say) ten $n^{th}$ roots of unity: $z_1^n = \ldots = z_{10}^n = 1$. Suppose that the sum $S = z_1+\ldots+z_{10}$ is non-zero. How ...
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Compelling evidence that two basepoints are better than one

This question is inspired by an answer of Tim Porter. Ronnie Brown pioneered a framework for homotopy theory in which one may consider multiple basepoints. These ideas are accessibly presented in his ...
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What interesting/nontrivial results in Algebraic geometry require the existence of universes?

Brian Conrad indicated a while ago that many of the results proven in AG using universes can be proven without them by being very careful (link). I'm wondering if there are any results in AG that ...
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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 ...
44k views

What is torsion in differential geometry intuitively?

Hi, given a connection on the tangent space of a manifold, one can define its torsion: $$T(X,Y):=\triangledown_X Y - \triangledown_Y X - [X,Y]$$ What is the geometric picture behind this definition&...
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