For questions about the motivation behind mathematical concepts and results. These are often "why" questions.

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2
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2answers
22 views

The definition of a subspace in linear algebra

I'm trying to learn linear algebra on my own but I am stuck on the definition of a linear subspace. Let's assume I want to find out if $S$ is a subspace of $\mathbb{R}^2$, where $ S = [X_1 , X_2] $ ...
1
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1answer
22 views

Examples of physical motivation for integrals over scalar field?

I'm looking for good examples of physical motivation for integrals over scalar field. Here is an example I've found (source): A rescue team follows a path in a danger area where for each position ...
1
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2answers
116 views

Motivation for construction of cross-product (Quaternions?)

I just found a very interesting article here: http://www.johndcook.com/blog/2012/02/15/dot-cross-and-quaternion-products/ The author observes that by defining i,j,k s.t. $i^2=j^2=k^2=ijk=-1$, ...
18
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1answer
719 views

Motivation for abstract harmonic analysis

I am reading Folland's A Course in Abstract Harmonic Analysis and find this book extremely exciting. However it seems Folland does not give many examples to illustrate the motivation behind much of ...
7
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2answers
103 views

What is Representation Theory?

I'm beginning a course that uses representation theory, but I do not really understand what that is about. In the text I am following, I have the following definition: A representation of the Lie ...
74
votes
9answers
6k views

Why do mathematicians sometimes assume famous conjectures in their research?

I will use a specific example, but I mean in general. I went to a number theory conference and I saw one thing that surprised me: Nearly half the talks began with "Assuming the generalized Riemann ...
3
votes
1answer
56 views

What is the significance of “Homomorphism”?

Certainly Homomorphism is a prerequisite to establish an “Isomorphism”(Bijection), but what does a Homomorphism tell independently when it is established between two sets? Homomorphism relates ...
6
votes
1answer
101 views

The significance of the composition of an operator and its adjoint

As I read the literature, I have noticed that the composition $T^*T$ of a linear operator $T:H\to H$ and its adjoint frequently turns up in all kind of places. I am aware that it is Hermitian (at ...
3
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0answers
50 views

What was the genesis of Hua's identity?

Many resources I have read prove Hua's identity more-or-less mechanically. I have seen there is more than one raison d'être for Hua's identity: e.g. its connection to the fundamental theorem of ...
7
votes
3answers
176 views

Motivation for definition of Mobius function

Why is the Mobius function defined the way it is? \begin{align*} \mu(n) = \begin{cases} (-1)^r & \text{ if $n$ is square-free and is of the form }n=p_1p_2\ldots p_r\\ 0 & \text{ if $n$ is not ...
3
votes
1answer
64 views

Why Frobenis concerned the groups which today called “Frobenius Group”?

From their work, it seems that the Ancient mathematicians were investigating a mathematical object not as a fun, but to solve some problem occurred in earlier work of someone. Lagrange, Galois, Abel ...
14
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8answers
1k views

What is the motivation behind the study of sequences?

I was discussing some ideas with my professor and he always says that before you work on something in mathematics, you need to know the motivation for studying/working on it. A better way to put this ...
15
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6answers
2k views

Motivation of the Gaussian Integral

I read on Wikipedia that Laplace was the first to evaluate $$\int\nolimits_{-\infty}^\infty e^{-x^2} \, \mathrm dx$$ Does anybody know what he was doing that lead him to that integral? Even better, ...
1
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0answers
49 views

Motives, anabelian geometry? What are they?

I am about to delve into one of these subjects, but they had such huge prerequisite that I am hesitant, not sure which choice to make. Try as a might, I don't really understand the big picture behind ...
0
votes
1answer
18 views

Different discriminant ideal, what are their applications?

Lots of texts online on number theory do not even mention the different ideal. Some do, but then it gets ignored and is never mentioned again. I could not find a single application for it, as if it is ...
4
votes
1answer
56 views

Applications of the completeness of $L^1$

I'm teaching a measure theory class. I think one of the main motivations for the development of the Lebesgue integral is that the space $L^1(\mathbb{R})$ of integrable functions on $\mathbb{R}$ is ...
3
votes
0answers
67 views

Motivation of Vieta's transformation

The depressed cubic equation $y^3 +py + q = 0$ can be solved with Vieta's transformation (or Vieta's substitution) $y = z - \frac{p}{3 \cdot z}.$ This reduces the cubic equation to a quadratic ...
1
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0answers
30 views

Why is Fourier Analysis effective for studying uniform distributions

On his great expository article about the naturality of the Zeta function in number theory, Tim Gowers makes the following claim: When it comes to the primes, we find that we do not have a good ...
0
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1answer
18 views

Particular and homogenous differential equation solution

When solving linear nonhomogeneous equations, we deal with two types of solutions: particular homogeneous Why do we have these two types of solutions for differential equations? What does each of ...
17
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7answers
2k views

What is the purpose of showing some numbers exist?

For example in my Analysis class the professor showed $\sqrt{2}$ exists using Archimedean properties of $\mathbb{R}$ and we showed $e$ exists. I want to know why it's important to show their ...
11
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2answers
1k views

How can I motivate myself to study math every morning? [closed]

I am jobless, so I have relatively plenty of time though life is short. I started studying math and some other things every day because I want to become an artificial intelligence researcher. When ...
2
votes
2answers
106 views

What (previously and currently unsolved) problems motivate the study/development of analysis?

As I had ever know there are at least two (previously unsolved) problems motivate the study/development of abstract algebra: (1) the ancient Greeks' three problems in compass-and-straightedge ...
3
votes
5answers
130 views

How to make sense out of the $\epsilon-\delta$ definition of a limit?

The informal intuition for the limit of a function is this: What is the value of the function $f$ as $x$ gets infinitely close to $c$? How on earth does this monster $$ \lim_{x \to c} f(x) = L ...
6
votes
1answer
210 views

Do expressions like $(-1)^{2/3}$ show up naturally in pure or applied math?

Background. Let $x$ denote an arbitrary real number. Then $x^n$ can be defined for each $n \in \mathbb{N}$ as follows: $$x^n = \underbrace{x \times \cdots \times x}_n$$ If $x$ is furthermore ...
0
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0answers
10 views

How to naturally justify sigma additivity in Kolmogorov's PT axiomatics?

The last axiom in the axiomatization of probability theory by Kolmogorov, that states: Any countable sequence of disjoint (synonymous with mutually exclusive) events E$_1, E_2$, ... satisfies ...
-1
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3answers
72 views

Purpose of a vector space [closed]

I am currently studying linear algebra and I've seen what vector spaces are, but I can't seem to understand what their purpose is. What do they allow us to do?
25
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5answers
4k views

Jacobi identity - intuitive explanation

I am really struggling with understanding the Jacobi Identity. I am not struggling with verifying it or calculating commutators.. I just can't see through it. I can't see the motivation behind it (as ...
16
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2answers
758 views

Motivation behind the definition of flat module

Can someone explain what is the motivation behind the definition of a flat module? I saw the definition but I don't really know why it is important to work with these structures.
0
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0answers
27 views

Application of abstract algebra for computer science/software engineering [duplicate]

What are some cool applications of abstract algebra for computer science/software engineering? A friend of mine has been invited to my university (most of the students are soon to be software ...
-3
votes
7answers
3k views

What purpose does the use of functions serve in mathematics?

Ok, so I know the overview a bit. I would like to know why one should use one, what they're used for, and maybe even the history behind their purpose. X = X (Y) + 7 ... 5 = 5 (20) + 7 ... 32 is the ...
5
votes
1answer
447 views

A layman's motivation for non-standard analysis and generalised limits

Disclaimer: My apologies for making such a long question. The question is possibly also rather specific, but I hope that (some parts of) it might be useful in general. Background: I have recently ...
9
votes
3answers
427 views

What's a good motivating example for the concept of a slice category?

What nice example can one give a beginner to really motivate the idea of a slice category, before they've met the more general notion of a comma category? There's the toy example of a poset category ...
2
votes
0answers
46 views

Motivation for Definition of Tensor Product of Modules

Let $A$ be a commutative ring and $M,N,P$ be A-modules.I know that tensor product of $M$ and $N$ is a universal object ($ M \otimes N$,u) (where $M \otimes N$ is a $A$-module and $u: M\times N \to ...
3
votes
1answer
426 views

Intuition behind the definition of Adjoint functors

I think of adjoint functors as some sort of inverses. So, the first part of the definition looks reasonable that there exists natural transformations $$\epsilon : FG \rightarrow 1_C$$ $$\eta : 1_D ...
1
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1answer
44 views

The (matrix) definition of a positive-definite function

In the definition of a positive-definite function, why are the elements of the n$\times$n matrix chosen as $f(x_i-x_j)$ for $i, j = 1,...,n$? Also, it says that "for any real numbers $x_i$". Does ...
2
votes
2answers
145 views

Why are special numbers important? (Such as fermat prime, mersenne prime)

Whenever I studied topics in mathematics, I found those topics are important in purely mathematical sense and I could see some motivations. However, I cannot see neither motivation nor importance of ...
-1
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1answer
42 views

The motivation for considering exponential families of distributions [closed]

I saw problems of the form: "show that the distributions ... form an the exponential family". Why is this property, being an exponential family, important?
10
votes
9answers
552 views

Motivation for the Definition of Compact Space

A compact topological space is defined as a space, $C$, such that for any set $\mathcal{A}$ of open sets such that $C \subseteq \bigcup_{U\in \mathcal{A}} U$, there is finite set $\mathcal{A'} ...
0
votes
0answers
38 views

What does a functional integral evaluation look like?

I've read the Wikipedia page on functional integration, but it really isn't very easy to understand. There don't seem to be any online videos on the subject either. In addition, when I search online, ...
5
votes
1answer
170 views

What can we actually do with congruence relations, specifically?

Let $T$ denote a Lawvere theory and $X$ denote a $T$-algebra. Under my preferred definitions: A subalgebra of $X$ consists of a $T$-algebra $Y$ together with an injective homomorphism $Y ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

Motivation behind the definition of GCD and LCM

According to me, I can find the GCD of two integers (say $a$ and $b$) by finding all the common factors of them, and then finding the maximum of all these common factors. This also justifies the ...
1
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1answer
97 views

Motivate why $a^{-n}$ equals to $\frac{1}{a^n}$

I have to prove that $a^{-n} = \frac{1}{a^n}$ with $\frac{3^4}{3^7}$, but before I can do that I have to understand the background. The background says: we know that $\frac{3^4}{3^7} = ...
5
votes
1answer
748 views

Why is unique ergodicity important or interesting?

I have a very simple motivational question: why do we care if a measure-preserving transformation is uniquely ergodic or not? I can appreciate that being ergodic means that a system can't really be ...
2
votes
2answers
66 views

Banach spaces containing copies of $\ell^1$

Why is it important that a Banach spaces $X$ contains (or not) copies of the space $\ell^1$? I always hear talk about it but I don't know its importance. Could someone explain this?
-5
votes
1answer
87 views

Equal Categories [closed]

Let $\infty$ be the "category" of all categories, where the objects are categories and the morphisms are functors. I am trying to motivate the definition of equal categories by doing it as follows. ...
3
votes
1answer
141 views

What motivates the definition of a ring in abstract algebra? [closed]

I've read a lot of questions about rings but I still don't know why they are useful/ I'm sure they are, but I don't know why. Are their properties somehow used in proofs or as foundations for ...
2
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0answers
40 views

Motivation for the study of units in cyclotomic fields beyond Washington's book

Right now, I am reading Larry Washington's book "Introduction to Cyclotomic Fields." In Chapter 8 of this book, the unit group of the ring of integers in a cyclotomic field (or its totally real ...
3
votes
2answers
111 views

Motivation for separation axioms

I have recently been studying different separation and countability axioms in topology. I am looking for a motivation for why such a refined division of different axioms was made and is studied. I am ...
3
votes
3answers
408 views

Intuition behind independence & conditional probability

This is a basic question. I have a good intuition that $A$ is independent of $B$ if $P(A \vert B) = P(A)$, and see how you can easily derive from this that it must hold that $P(A,B) = P(A)P(B)$. ...
1
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1answer
52 views

Justification for ordinal arithmetic at limit ordinals

Wikipedia tells me that: $$\alpha + \lambda := \bigcup_{\beta < \lambda} \left ( \alpha + \beta \right ) $$ for a limit ordinal $\lambda$. Multiplication and exponentiation, as Wikipedia says, ...