13
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is an image called an “image”?

Given a function $f : A \to B$, the image, denoted by $\operatorname{Im}f$ is the set of all $f(x)$ where $x \in A$. Why do we call this set the image? When was it first used, and what motivated its ...
17
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the motivation for quaternions?

I know imaginary numbers solve $x^2 +1=0$, but what is the motivation for quaternions?
3
votes
0answers
75 views

What's so special about binomial coefficients that someone decided to organize them in a triangle?

I know that binomial coefficients are related to figurate numbers (which were studied by Greeks a loooong time ago, because of its connections to geometry). I also understand how the Pascal's triangle ...
5
votes
5answers
267 views

Examples of advancement in mathematics due to war

It's not a lie that, in most sciences, some of their advancement comes from war. A couple examples would be the Haber process in chemistry and none other than the Manhattan Project in both physics and ...
1
vote
0answers
72 views

Why nobel prize is not for mathematicians [closed]

I have heard from many people that nobel prize is not given to mthematicians.Waht is the reason behind this?I also heard that a women rejected the nobel because of some famous mathematician.Is this ...
43
votes
7answers
5k views

What is the oldest open problem in geometry?

Geometry is one of the oldest branches of mathematics, and many famous problems have been proposed and solved in its long history. What I would like to know is: What is the oldest open problem in ...
4
votes
1answer
81 views

Who are some blind or otherwise disabled mathematicians who have made important contributions to mathematics?

Two prominent mathematicians who were disabled in ways which would have made it difficult to work were Lev Pontryagin and Solomon Lefschetz. Pontryagin was blind as a result of a stove explosion at ...
12
votes
5answers
758 views

In what ways has physics spurred the invention of new mathematical tools?

I came across this comment: Mathematical rigor is not a criterion that physicists have for evaluating their theories. From a mathematical perspective, the non-rigorous theories are far more ...
5
votes
0answers
130 views

How do mathematicians know what is known?

How do mathematicians know that what they are researching has not been already know for 200 years? Obviously if they are researching something that is cutting edge it is not a problem, but if one is ...
30
votes
5answers
2k views

Examples of “Non-Logical Theorems” Proven by Logic

I am still an undergraduate student, and so perhaps I just haven't seen enough of the mathematical world. Question: What are some examples of mathematical logic solving open problem outside of ...
4
votes
2answers
136 views

Who invented or used very first the double lined symbols $\mathbb{R},\mathbb{Q},\mathbb{N}$ etc

Who invented or used very first the double lined symbols $\mathbb{R},\mathbb{Q},\mathbb{N}$ etc. to represent the real number system, rational number system, natural number system respectively?
6
votes
6answers
272 views

Interviews of famous modern mathematicians

I was wondering, are there any good collections of interviews of famous modern mathematicians? It can be text interviews, or audio or video recordings. I am not sure what exactly I mean by "modern". ...
2
votes
1answer
54 views

The term “Homotopy” was given by whom?

I want to know the names who define the term 'Homotopy' in algebraic topology in 1907. Are they Dehn and Paul Heegaard? What is the full name of Dehn? Thank you in advance.
6
votes
1answer
177 views

Chinese estimate for $\pi$. Were they lucky?

The famous chinese estimate $\pi\approx\frac{355}{113}$ is good. I think that is too good. As a continued fraction: $$\pi=[3:7,15,1,292,\ldots]$$ That $292$ is a bit too big. Is there a reason for a ...
4
votes
2answers
84 views

How did self-similarity come into mathematics?

As far as I understand the interest in self-similarity was born outside of mathematics. The textbooks I came across give a few objects as examples (tree, broccoli, river, etc) yet it's clear that the ...
30
votes
6answers
1k views

Why are integrals called integrals?

What is the historical background for this term? I cannot quite see what is integral about an integral, even if we go back to the viewing it as the area under a curve. It seems a strange choice of ...
1
vote
1answer
95 views

Why do different countries/regions have different methods of counting large numbers?

When we start counting large quantities of $10's$, the number system varies by country/region: Europe/US: $10^3$ (thousand, million, billion are all multiples of $10^3$) Japan/China/Korea: $10^4$ ...
3
votes
3answers
99 views

Colloquialisms in Math Terminology

What are some of your favorite colloquial sounding names for mathematical objects, proofs, and so on? For example, manifolds are often described using an atlas and a neighborhood describes a small ...
3
votes
0answers
119 views

History of “Math is an Art” [closed]

For all its elegance I cannot bring myself to the conclusion that math is a form of art. As shown on the wikipedia page there is certainly math in art and art in math but what I wonder is how the ...
14
votes
2answers
660 views

Why is analysis called “analysis”?

Just as the topic says, how did the name "analysis" come to denote the specific mathematical branch dealing with limits and stuff? The term "analysis" seems very generic compared to the words for the ...
13
votes
1answer
285 views

l'Hopital's questionable premise?

Historians widely report that l'Hopital's 1696 book Analyse des Infiniment Petits pour l'Intelligence des Lignes Courbes contains a questionable premise expressed by an equation of type $x+dx=x$ ...
60
votes
23answers
10k views

Mathematicians ahead of their time?

In every field there's always that person who's just years ahead of their time. For instance, Paul Morphy (born 1837) is said to have retired from chess because he found no one to match his technique ...
7
votes
2answers
117 views

Theory vs problems in modern math

Quick background: I'm a fourth year undergraduate entering graduate school next year. I am trying to identify areas of mathematical research in which there tends to be more emphasis on developing new ...
3
votes
1answer
163 views

Errors of Euler interpretation?

To complement the recent post on Euler's errors, I would pose the following question: what common errors of Euler interpetation appear in the literature? What errors are attributed to Euler's work in ...
8
votes
1answer
284 views

Why is the permanent of interest for complexity theorists?

Studying a bit about the determinant and the permanent, I'm told that although both concepts have very similar formulas, the permanent was of not much interest historically - it was until later that ...
3
votes
1answer
61 views

Enlightening books giving a guided tour of mathematics, in a style that Gian-Carlo Rota would not mind?

I am currently reading Gian-Carlo Rota's Indiscrete Thoughts. What more can I say apart from "the man can write"? (In other words, you should really read it if you are interested in mathematics.) I ...
9
votes
1answer
592 views

Did Albert Einstein contribute to math?

Many great scientists have made important contributations to many related fields. Gauss, Euler and Newton each made many contributions to both math and physic. One of the great scientists of last ...
2
votes
1answer
98 views

Definition of the $\sec$ function

I am a postgraduate student of mathematics from Slovenia (central Europe) with quite some experience in mathematics. While answering questions on this site, I often encounter the function $\sec(x)$ ...
7
votes
4answers
206 views

“important” math concepts to pass on to next generation of creatures at some cataclysm [closed]

This may be somewhat silly to ask, but I couldn't resist the temptation. The idiosyncratic physicist Richard Feynman was once asked If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be ...
0
votes
0answers
18 views

Lebesgue - differentiation of monotone functions

I was wondering how Lebesgue himself proved the continuous case. Since my French is not good enough to read his own book, I was wondering if someone knows if there exists a translation ? (at least of ...
2
votes
2answers
238 views

Are there still undiscovered simple/fundamental theorems? [closed]

Well, if it is undiscovered, then actually we cannot know whether it exists or not. But i am wondering if theorems/equalities like $Pythagorean$ $Theorem$ or maybe $Fermat's$ $Last$ $Theorem$ have ...
3
votes
4answers
151 views

Soft question: Examples where implications derived from mathematical models failed to describe reality

I have always been fascinated by how well conclusions drawn from mathematical models could fit reality, so I wondered if there are any counter examples. In "Gödel, Escher, Bach" I could already find ...
2
votes
1answer
49 views

The Jacobi nome $q$

Does anyone know why $q = e^{-\pi K'/K} = e^{\pi i \tau}$ is called the nome? Is there a historical reason? Does the word nome mean something in Latin or German?
0
votes
1answer
66 views

Reference on Infinite Dimensional Manifold

I am studying manifold. For comprehension, I read the site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifold, and there is some information about infinite dimensional manifold. Now I have two questions or ...
2
votes
1answer
173 views

Famous deaf mathematicians?

There are some really inspiring examples of blind mathematicians. However in my experience I also think problems inside my head using words. So I was wondering if there are some examples of deaf ...
5
votes
1answer
149 views

More unknown / underappreciated results of Euler

What are some of the more unknown and/or underappreciated things that Euler discovered? The man has done so much that there's bound to be notable results that most people aren't aware of. This could ...
84
votes
30answers
16k views

Examples of mathematical results discovered “late”

What are examples of mathematical results that were discovered surprisingly late in history? Maybe the result is a straightforward corollary of an established theorem, or maybe it's just so simple ...
4
votes
0answers
74 views

Was the Weierstrass function constructed or discovered?

Reading Halmos' I want to be a mathematician, he mentions a continuous function without a tangent. Naturally, I was curious to see how such a function could possibly exist, and I imagined it to be ...
3
votes
0answers
30 views

History of Moment Generating Functions

I am beginning to appreciate how important Moment Generating Functions (MGFs) are regarding various common probability distributions and the ways their expectations/variances are calculated. My ...
1
vote
1answer
145 views

Have any definitions in mathematics been redefined

Based on certain intuitions and motivations we make certain definitions and then proceed to use these concepts in further developing our intuition. For example, we have an intuition that a line has ...
4
votes
0answers
97 views

Earliest precursor to category theory

In the Historical notes section of the Wikipedia article on category theory, it is mentioned that in 1942-1945, Samuel Eilenberg and Saunders Mac Lane, in the course of their work in algebraic ...
5
votes
2answers
459 views

What fields (and operators acting on those fields) might form the basis of alien mathematics?

Addition and multiplication, according to most histories, arose in human civilizations out of a need to count a finite number of objects, and then later on especially, to measure land. What might be ...
2
votes
2answers
157 views

Which small area of mathematics had fully developed already and thus no more research in this area?

Which small area of mathematics had fully developed already and thus no more research in this area? For example, no more PHD research in Euclidean Geometry anymore.
2
votes
3answers
142 views

Mathematician's names in structures.

I would like to know how it is that mathematical objects come to receive the name of a mathematician. Do these mostly happen through the author's proposal, or is it a process that takes more time? ...
6
votes
2answers
172 views

Popular Topics in mathematical analysis(Functional analysis)

I am writing a text(as a duty by my mentor) dealing with the recently popular topics(including open problems) in mathematical analysis. At first part, I briefly introduced the mathematical ...
14
votes
2answers
776 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
629 views

Why are there so few Euclidean geometry problems that remain unsolved?

Stillwell mentions in his book Mathematics and its History that: Most of the really old unsolved problems in mathematics, in fact, are simple questions about the natural numbers... What is it ...
25
votes
4answers
6k views

Why are so many of the oldest unsolved problems in mathematics about number theory?

Stillwell mentions in his book, Mathematics and its History that: Most of the really old unsolved problems in mathematics, in fact, are simple questions about the natural numbers... Have ...
3
votes
1answer
105 views

Important results of calculus before Newton and Leibniz?

We have all come to know that calculus was invented by Newton and Leibniz, right? But many calculus results were already proven by the time. I have read that Fermat already found how to calculate ...
2
votes
0answers
281 views

Is there any English version of Récoltes et Semailles?

I felt like my question isn't appropriate for MO, so I though maybe I should post it here. I want to read Alexander Grothendieck's "Récoltes et Semailles", but I don't know any French. I can easily ...