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50
votes
11answers
6k views

What is $dx$ in integration?

When I was at school and learning integration in maths class at A Level my teacher wrote things like this on the board. $$\int f(x)\, dx$$ When he came to explain the meaning of the $dx$, he told us ...
-2
votes
1answer
241 views

Could we assign a numerical value to an infinitesimal?

The common definition of 'infinitesimal' is that they are quantities that are too small to be measured or perceived. If we base the mathematically definition entirely on the common definition it ...
10
votes
5answers
282 views

Is line element mathematically rigorous?

I know differentials (in a way of standard analysis) are not very rigorous in mathematics, there are a lot of amazing answers here on the topic. But what about line element? $$ds^2 = dx^2 + dy^2 ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Are infinitesimals dangerous?

Amir Alexander is a historian of mathematics. His new book is entitled "Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World". See here. Two questions: (1) In what sense are ...
9
votes
5answers
721 views

Justification of algebraic manipulation of infinitesimals

As an engineering student, I regularly see people making arguments like this: Consider a rectangle of dimensions $x\times 4x$. If we make $x$ bigger by a small quantity $dx$ then this will make $4x$ ...
4
votes
3answers
189 views

How $\frac{dx}{dy}=f(x)g(y) \Leftrightarrow \int \frac{dx}{f(x)} = \int g(y)dy$?

In my intro differential equations class we have often used the "equivalence" stated in title. It seems to me that somehow, the intermediate step $$ \frac{dx}{f(x)} = g(y)dy$$ is being used, in which ...
6
votes
6answers
1k views

What does limit actually mean?

I have been in a deep confusion for about a month over the topic of limits! According to our book the limit at $a$ is the value being approached by a function $f(x)$ as $x$ approaches $a$ I have a ...
14
votes
3answers
563 views

Who gave you the epsilon?

Who gave you the epsilon? is the title of an article by J. Grabiner on Cauchy from the 1980s, and the implied answer is "Cauchy". On the other hand, historian I. Grattan-Guinness points out in his ...
3
votes
1answer
183 views

Why every member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{R}$ is infinitely close to some member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{Q}$

Let $\mathbb{Q}$ be the set of rational numbers. Show that every member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{R}$ is infinitely close to some member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{Q}$. This is an exercise on page 180, A ...
1
vote
5answers
250 views

What is the name of $0.\overline{0}1$

Short question: What is the name of the number closest but not equal to zero? Long question: Some programmers were discussing about the smallest number close to zero, which is ...
4
votes
0answers
84 views

Defining “Penon Infinitesimals”.

In this lecture (which is accompanied by these slides), right near the end (so page 9 in the pdf of the slides; I don't think you have to watch the lecture), P. Johnstone refers to the "Penon ...
2
votes
2answers
244 views

Nilpotent infinitesimals comparison

I'd like to understand better the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches to nilpotent infinitesimal numbers and their application to differential geometry in the context of physics and ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

little-o and its properties

I know that $f(x) = o(g(x))$ for $x \to \infty $ if (and only if) $\lim_{x \to \infty}\frac{f(x)}{g(x)}=0$ Which means than $f(x)$ has a order of growth less than that of $g(x)$. 1) I'm still ...