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981 votes
281 answers
311k 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 ...
138 votes
65 answers
33k 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 ...
221 votes
12 answers
34k 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 ...
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43 votes
5 answers
5k views

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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  • 91k
354 votes
110 answers
85k 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 ...
40 votes
6 answers
6k views

An algebra of "integrals"

When discussing divergent integrals with people, I got curious about the following: Is there an $\mathbb{R}$-algebra $A$ together with a map (could be defined on just a subspace) $$\int_0^{\infty}: ...
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  • 3,558
344 votes
52 answers
112k 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 ...
283 votes
34 answers
34k 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, ...
10 votes
3 answers
2k views

Limit cycles as closed geodesics (in negatively or positively curved space)

EDIT: Here is a related post which concern quadratic vector fields rather than Van der Pol equation. In this linked post we see that the convexity of limit cycle play a crucial role. On ...
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81 votes
5 answers
8k views

When is $A$ isomorphic to $A^3$?

This is totally elementary, but I have no idea how to solve it: let $A$ be an abelian group such that $A$ is isomorphic to $A^3$. is then $A$ isomorphic to $A^2$? probably no, but how construct a ...
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13 votes
2 answers
2k views

Generalization of a theorem of Øystein Ore in group theory

Theorem (Øystein Ore, 1938): A finite group $G$ is cyclic iff its lattice of subgroups $\mathcal{L}(G)$ is distributive. Proof: see below. Let $(H \subset G)$ be an inclusion of finite groups and ...
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222 votes
46 answers
81k views

Most interesting mathematics mistake?

Some mistakes in mathematics made by extremely smart and famous people can eventually lead to interesting developments and theorems, e.g. Poincaré's 3d sphere characterization or the search to prove ...
113 votes
5 answers
11k views

What do epimorphisms of (commutative) rings look like?

(Background: In any category, an epimorphism is a morphism $f:X\to Y$ which is "surjective" in the following sense: for any two morphisms $g,h:Y\to Z$, if $g\circ f=h\circ f$, then $g=h$. Roughly, "...
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44 votes
4 answers
4k views

How to constructively/combinatorially prove Schur-Weyl duality?

How is Schur-Weyl duality (specifically, the fact that the actions of the group ring $\mathbb{K}\left[ S_{n}\right] $ and the monoid ring $\mathbb{K}\left[ \left( \operatorname*{End}V,\cdot\...
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21 votes
2 answers
2k views

Non weakly-group-theoretical integral fusion category

Is there an integral fusion category of rank $7$, FPdim $210$ and type $(1,5,5,5,6,7,7)$ with the following fusion rules (or the little $\color{purple}{\text{variation}}$ below)? $$\scriptsize{\begin{...
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203 votes
50 answers
73k views

Ways to prove the fundamental theorem of algebra

This seems to be a favorite question everywhere, including Princeton quals. How many ways are there? Please give a new way in each answer, and if possible give reference. I start by giving two: ...
67 votes
6 answers
8k views

Kahler differentials and Ordinary Differentials

What's the relationship between Kahler differentials and ordinary differential forms?
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72 votes
10 answers
9k views

Riemannian surfaces with an explicit distance function?

I'm looking for explicit examples of Riemannian surfaces (two-dimensional Riemannian manifolds $(M,g)$) for which the distance function d(x,y) can be given explicitly in terms of local coordinates of ...
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  • 91k
20 votes
8 answers
11k views

Lower bound for sum of binomial coefficients?

Hi! I'm new here. It would be awesome if someone knows a good answer. Is there a good lower bound for the tail of sums of binomial coefficients? I'm particularly interested in the simplest case $\...
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  • 223
31 votes
2 answers
4k views

Similarities between Post's Problem and Cohen's Forcing

Remark: I have since learned that G.H. Moore addresses this question in the third reference listed at the end of this post, beginning on p. 157 in which he cites a letter from Kreisel to Gödel dated 4/...
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134 votes
69 answers
201k views

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,...
363 votes
22 answers
57k 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 differ, ...
77 votes
12 answers
13k views

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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47 votes
2 answers
9k views

Is this Riemann zeta function product equal to the Fourier transform of the von Mangoldt function?

Mathematica knows that: $$\log(n) = \lim\limits_{s \rightarrow 1} \zeta(s)\left(1 - \frac{1}{n^{(s - 1)}}\right)\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\; (1)$$ The von Mangoldt function should then be: $$\Lambda(n)=...
46 votes
8 answers
8k views

Does the formal power series solution to $f(f(x))= \sin( x) $ converge?

I have spent some time using gp-pari. There is, of course, a formal power series solution to $ f(f(x)) = \sin x.$ It is displayed below, identified by the symbol $g$ because I am not entirely sure ...
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  • 24.5k
36 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why is there a connection between enumerative geometry and nonlinear waves?

Recently I encountered in a class the fact that there is a generating function of Gromov–Witten invariants that satisfies the Korteweg–de Vries hierarchy. Let me state the fact more precisely. ...
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15 votes
2 answers
3k views

Question about functional derivatives

This page on Wikipedia defines the so-called functional derivative as follows: "Given a manifold $M$ representing (continuous/smooth) functions $\rho$ (with certain boundary conditions, etc.) and a ...
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  • 2,809
9 votes
0 answers
4k views

Is the conjecture A+B=C following correct?

Is the conjecture on A+B=C following correct ? Conjecture: Let $A, B, C$ be three positive integer numbers such that $A+B=C$ with $\gcd(A, B, C) = 1$. By Fundamental theorem of arithmetic we write: $...
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31 votes
2 answers
2k views

Are the Sierpiński cardinal $\acute{\mathfrak n}$ and its measure modification $\acute{\mathfrak m}$ equal to some known small uncountable cardinals?

This question was motivated by an answer to this question of Dominic van der Zypen. It relates to the following classical theorem of Sierpiński. Theorem (Sierpiński, 1921). For any countable partition ...
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  • 33.6k
247 votes
67 answers
121k 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 ...
198 votes
21 answers
38k 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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  • 12.2k
107 votes
15 answers
84k views

Sum of 'the first k' binomial coefficients for fixed $N$

I am interested in the function $$f(N,k)=\sum_{i=0}^{k} {N \choose i}$$ for fixed $N$ and $0 \leq k \leq N $. Obviously it equals 1 for $k = 0$ and $2^{N}$ for $k = N$, but are there any other ...
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  • 1,148
163 votes
7 answers
14k 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 $$ {\Aut}^n(G):= \Aut(\Aut(...\Aut(G)...)) $$ ...
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  • 12.1k
31 votes
5 answers
9k views

What mathematical treatment is there on the renormalization group flow in a space of Lagrangians?

What mathematical treatment is there on the renormalization group flow in a space of Lagrangians?
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  • 861
104 votes
6 answers
16k 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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  • 91k
42 votes
8 answers
9k views

The finite subgroups of SU(n)

This question is inspired by the recent question "The finite subgroups of SL(2,C)". While reading the answers there I remembered reading once that identifying the finite subgroups of SU(3) is still an ...
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  • 2,043
34 votes
1 answer
8k views

Infinite tensor products

Let $A$ be a commutative ring and $M_i, i \in I$ be a infinite family of $A$-modules. Define their tensor product $\bigotimes_{i \in I} M_i$ to be a representing object of the functor of multilinear ...
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45 votes
2 answers
5k views

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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  • 18.8k
37 votes
6 answers
5k views

Who invented diagrammatic algebra?

There is a strong and growing trend to do mathematics via diagrammatic algebra, which involves constructing and manipulating equations whose elements are diagrams drawn in the plane. The manipulations ...
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43 votes
6 answers
8k views

Generating finite simple groups with $2$ elements

Here is a very natural question: Q: Is it always possible to generate a finite simple group with only $2$ elements? In all the examples that I can think of the answer is yes. If the answer is ...
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34 votes
3 answers
10k views

About Goldbach's conjecture

let's consider a composite natural number $n$ greater or equal to $4$. Goldbach's conjecture is equivalent to the following statement: "there is at least one natural number $r$ such as $(n-r)$ ...
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36 votes
5 answers
4k views

Reference for the Gelfand duality theorem for commutative von Neumann algebras

The Gelfand duality theorem for commutative von Neumann algebras states that the following three categories are equivalent: (1) The opposite category of the category of commutative von Neumann ...
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38 votes
5 answers
10k views

Do sets with positive Lebesgue measure have same cardinality as R?

I have been thinking about which kind of wild non-measurable functions you can define. This led me to the question: Is it possible to prove in ZFC, that if a (Edit: measurabel) set $A\subset \mathbb{...
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11 votes
2 answers
1k views

Elliptic operators corresponds to non vanishing vector fields

Added, June 19, 2019: The main motivation of this post is to associate an index to differential operator associated to a dynamical system such that the index has an interesting ...
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17 votes
0 answers
894 views

"Special" meanders

One of the open problems in combinatorics is enumeration of meanders. Here on MO I only could find them under the heading not-especially-famous-long-open-problems-which-anyone-can-understand. Since ...
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16 votes
1 answer
2k views

The cyclic subfactors theory: a quantum arithmetic?

Context: First recall some results: - Actions of finite groups on the hyperfinite type $II_{1}$ factor $R$ (Jones 1980). - A Galois correspondence for depth 2 irreducible subfactors (Izumi-Longo-...
13 votes
3 answers
1k views

Bound the error in estimating a relative totient function

Let $n=p_1^{e_1}\cdots p_k^{e_k}$ be an integer with $k$ prime factors. We know that the number of integers less than $n$ and coprime to it is $$\Phi(n)=n-\sum_i\frac n{p_i}+\sum_{i \lt j}\frac n{...
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272 votes
34 answers
44k 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 ...
139 votes
7 answers
18k views

Homotopy groups of Lie groups

Several times I've heard the claim that any Lie group $G$ has trivial second fundamental group $\pi_2(G)$, but I have never actually come across a proof of this fact. Is there a nice argument, ...
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  • 3,834
153 votes
47 answers
21k views

Generalizing a problem to make it easier

One of the many articles on the Tricki that was planned but has never been written was about making it easier to solve a problem by generalizing it (which initially seems paradoxical because if you ...

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