For questions about visualizing mathematical concepts. This includes questions about visualization of mathematical theorems and proofs without words.

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100
votes
5answers
11k views

How were 'old-school' mathematics graphics created?

I really enjoy the style of technical diagrams in many mathematics books published in the mid-to-late 20th century. For example, and as a starting point, here is a picture that I just saw today: ...
97
votes
21answers
7k views

Proving the identity $\sum_{k=1}^n {k^3} = \big(\sum_{k=1}^n k\big)^2$ without induction

I recently proved that $$ \sum_{k=1}^n k^3 = \left(\sum_{k=1}^n k \right)^2 $$ Using mathematical induction. I'm interested if there's an intuitive explanation, or even a combinatorial ...
96
votes
20answers
20k views

Visually deceptive “proofs” which are mathematically wrong

Related: Visually stunning math concepts which are easy to explain Beside the wonderful examples above, there should also be counterexamples, where visually intuitive demonstrations are actually ...
59
votes
1answer
752 views

Regular way to fill a $1\times1$ square with $\frac{1}{n}\times\frac{1}{n+1}$ rectangles?

The series $$\sum_{n=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{n(n+1)}=1$$ suggests it might be possible to tile a $1\times1$ square with nonrepeated rectangles of the form $\frac{1}{n}\times\frac{1}{n+1}$. Is there a ...
58
votes
2answers
1k views

Visual proof of $\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^4} = \frac{\pi^4}{90}$?

In his gorgeous paper "How to compute $\sum \frac{1}{n^2}$ by solving triangles", Mikael Passare offers this idea for proving $\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^2} = \frac{\pi^2}{6}$: Proof of equality ...
53
votes
4answers
3k views

Algebra: Best mental images

I'm curious how people think of Algebras (in the universal sense, i.e., monoids, groups, rings, etc.). Cayley diagrams of groups with few generators are useful for thinking about group actions on ...
49
votes
13answers
24k views

Interesting math-facts that are visually attractive

To give a talk to 17-18 years old (who have a knack for mathematics) about how interesting mathematics (and more specifically pure mathematics) can be, I wanted to use nice facts accompanied by nice ...
37
votes
3answers
6k views

The Stupid Computer Problem : can every polynomial be written with only one $x$?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a mathematician so I asked my parents to buy me a computer to make super complex calculations. Of course, they were not crazy enough to buy an expensive super ...
26
votes
2answers
670 views

Can I represent groups geometrically?

I have just taken up abstract algebra for my college and my professor was giving me an introduction to groups, but since I like geometric definitions or ways of looking at stuff, I kept thinking, "How ...
25
votes
2answers
620 views

Are there any visual proofs for $\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^2} = \frac{\pi^2}{6}$?

I was flipping through Proofs Without Words (PWW) and saw many visual proofs for sequences and series. However, I saw none for $$\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^2} = \frac{\pi^2}{6}$$ Are there any ...
23
votes
5answers
1k views

Visualizing the factorial

Often in basic mathematics, we can visualize things very easily, which I believe helps understanding (instead of just working out a number theoretical proof). For example: $$(n+1)^2 - n^2 = (n+1) +n$$ ...
22
votes
3answers
3k views

Interesting implicit surfaces in $\mathbb{R}^3$

I have just written a small program in C++ and OpenGl to plot implicit surfaces in $\mathbb{R}^3$ for a Graphical Computing class and now I'm in need of more interesting surfaces to implement! Some ...
22
votes
4answers
1k views

Can Number Theory be visualized?

So I was thinking about a hard euclidean geometry problem, when it hit me just how much more difficult it would become without the aid of a diagram. This got me thinking: Wouldn't it be great if we ...
19
votes
1answer
425 views

Textbooks for visual learners

Perhaps this question has already been asked (if so, please let me know) but I am looking for books that appeal to visual learners. I discovered that I am able to understand concepts much quicker ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Visual explanation of the following statement:

Can somebody fill me in on a visual explanation for the following: If there exist integers $x, y$ such that $x^2 + y^2 = c$, then there also exist integers $w, z$ such that $w^2 + z^2 = 2c$ I know ...
18
votes
1answer
203 views

Handbook of mathematical drawing?

My drawing skills are pretty awful, and although I haven't yet had to teach multivariable calculus, someday I will. (And next semester in calculus II we're already doing some volumes by integrating ...
17
votes
10answers
3k views

Visualizing the square root of 2

A junior high school student I am tutoring asked me a question that stumped me - I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on it here. We were talking about how the square root of 2 is an ...
17
votes
3answers
4k views

Cutting a Möbius strip down the middle

Why does the result of cutting a Möbius strip down the middle lengthwise have two full twists in it? I can account for one full twist--the identification of the top left corner with the bottom right ...
17
votes
2answers
298 views

Enumerating Bianchi circles

Background: Katherine Stange describes Schmidt arrangements in "Visualising the arithmetic of imaginary quadratic fields", arXiv:1410.0417. Given an imaginary quadratic field $K$, we study the Bianchi ...
17
votes
0answers
415 views

Visualizing the Partition numbers (suggestions for visualization techniques)

So Ken Ono says that the partition numbers behave like fractals, in which case I'd like to try to find an appropriately illuminating way of visualizing them. But I'm sort of stuck at the moment, so ...
16
votes
1answer
249 views

Is it a good approach to heavily depend on visualization to learn math?

I am a third year undergraduate and I am a beginner on these "real mathematics" (no pun intended). Before contacting the "real math", my math level should be considered to be "good", although I was ...
15
votes
7answers
964 views

How should one picture a topology/ topological space?

I can form a mental image of sets with structures like metrics or norms. But if I try to picture a topology/ topological space I fail every time. The information provided in Wikipedia confuses me ...
15
votes
4answers
8k views

Intuitive Way To Understand Principal Component Analysis

I know that this is meant to explain variance butthe description on Wikpiedia stinks and it is not clear how you can explain variance using this technique Can anyone explain it in a simple way?
14
votes
2answers
3k views

What are all these “visualizations” of the 3-sphere?

a 2-sphere is a normal sphere. A 3-sphere is $$ x^2 + y^2 + z^2 + w^2 = 1 $$ My first question is, why isn't the w coordinate just time? I can plot a 4-d sphere in a symbolic math program and ...
13
votes
6answers
511 views

$\pi$ from the unit circle, $\sqrt 2$ from the unit square but what about $e$? [duplicate]

If one wants to introduce $\pi$ to a not mathematically savvy person, the unit circle would be a good choice. The unit square would be the way to go for $\sqrt 2$. But what about $e$? I've reviewed ...
13
votes
2answers
614 views

Visualizing Exterior Derivative

How do you visualize the exterior derivative of differential forms? I imagine differential forms to be some sort of (oriented) line segments, areas, volumes etc. That is if I imagine a two-form, I ...
13
votes
3answers
369 views

What can be gleaned from looking at a domain-colored graph of a complex function?

Functions from $\mathbb{C} \rightarrow \mathbb{C}$ are hard to visualize because of their 4-dimensional nature. One nice way of looking at them is by what's called domain coloring. An example from the ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

Visual representation of the fact that there are more irrational than rational numbers.

Would anybody know of a visual or even (preferably) geometric representation of this? To make it more specific: Text, symbols and written numbers are predominantly used as labels, and and less to ...
12
votes
4answers
888 views

Visual research problems in geometry

I am considering doing research in mathematics to be my career (and my life) someday. I'm a visually oriented person in general; for example, I prefer chess over cards because when I play chess, I ...
12
votes
4answers
898 views

Visualising finite fields

I'm interested in finding visual and/or physical approaches to understanding finite fields. I know of a few: V. I. Arnold has a few pictures of 'finite circles' and 'finite tori' in his book Dynamics, ...
11
votes
6answers
703 views

Visualizations of some of the abstractions of algebraic geometry

Where, or do there exist, good visualizations of sheaves, stalks, stacks, and/or schemes? I'm a better visual thinker than I am a symbolic thinker, and it would be easier for me to follow some of the ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

How to Visualize points on a high dimensional (>3) Manifold?

Are there any ways to visualize(plot/draw) points on a high dimensional (ex: dimension = 5) manifold?
11
votes
0answers
591 views

Visualizing a Calabi Yau

I would like to understand how I can visualize the quintic threefold $$ z_1^5 + z_2^5 + z_3^5 + z_4^5 +z_5^5 - 5\psi z_1z_2z_3z_4z_5 = 0$$ For a similar problem, Hanson proposes the following: ...
10
votes
7answers
629 views

Cayley table group visualization

how can I make graphics like this? random colors. I got a script in GAP that prints rows of numbers but I want it colored just random colors ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

This quotient space is homeomorphic to the Möbius strip?

Let $G:\mathbb R \times [-1,1]\to \mathbb R \times [-1,1]$ be a map defined by $G(x,y)=(x+1,-y)$ This space $Q=\mathbb R\times [-1,1]/\sim$, where $(x_1,y_1)\sim (x_2,y_2)$ if and only if there is $n\...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Is there a geometric interpretation of the exponential function of real numbers?

I can visualize the exponential function with the graph $y = e^x$, but I can do that for almost any function. In addition to its graph, the function $f(x) = x^n$ can be visualized as the volume of a ...
10
votes
1answer
589 views

Kakeya Needle problem video

I'm intruiged by the Kakeya Needle problem, described here on Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a nice animation of a needle turning through a hypo-cycloid: What I'm searching for is a visualisation of the ...
9
votes
4answers
263 views

Examples of familiar, easy-to-visualize manifolds that admit Lie group structures

I have a trouble learning Lie groups --- I have no canonical example to imagine while thinking of a Lie group. When I imagine a manifold it is usually some kind of a $2$D blanket or a circle/curve or ...
9
votes
2answers
240 views

Visual Proofs of Series Summations

I'd like to put together a compilation of visually geometric proofs of series summations. I have three famous 2D examples to clarify what I mean below, but other "visually geometric" proofs of an ...
9
votes
3answers
262 views

What's the intuition behind the identities $\cos(z)= \cosh(iz)$ and $\sin(z)=-i\sinh(iz)$?

I'm trying to understand in an intuitive manner the relationship between the circular and hyperbolic functions in the complex plane, i.e.: $$\cos(z)= \cosh(iz)$$ $$\sin(z)=-i\sinh(iz)$$ where $z$ is ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Visualizing quotient groups: $\mathbb{R/Q}$

I was wondering about this. I know it is possible to visualize the quotient group $\mathbb{R}/\mathbb{Z}$ as a circle, and if you consider these as "topological groups", then this group (not ...
8
votes
1answer
564 views

Visualization of Lens Spaces

I am trying to visualize lens spaces geometrically. While I am aware of the fact that most manifolds which cannot be embedded in $\mathbb{R}^3$ are hard to visualize because of the obvious ...
8
votes
3answers
460 views

Three-dimensional art galleries

The well-known art gallery problem starts with an "art gallery" (a simple polygon in the plane, not necessarily convex) and asks for the minimum number of "guards" (points on the polygon) required to "...
8
votes
2answers
197 views

On visualizing the spaces $\Bbb{S}_{++}^n$ and $\Bbb{R}^n\times\Bbb{S}_{++}^n$ for $n=1,2,\ldots$

Let $\Bbb{S}_{++}^n$ denote the space of symmetric positive-definite $n\times n$ real matrices. I am looking for hints concerning the visualization of such spaces for $n=1,2,\ldots$. I know that $\Bbb{...
8
votes
3answers
497 views

Reconciling 'intersecting planes' and 'linear transformation' interpretations of matrices

I've learned in linear algebra class that an $n \times m$ augmented matrix can be thought of as a collection of n planes in $\mathbb {R}^m$ . If the matrix is invertible, the planes all intersect at a ...
8
votes
2answers
202 views

0 to the power of 0, what does the essential discontinuity actually look like?

So having watch this clip by Numberphile which explains why $0^0$ is undefined https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRRolKTlF6Q And also this http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.0.to.0.power.html And ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Why are orthogonal matrices generalizations of rotations and reflections?

I recently took linear algebra course, all the I learned about orthogonal matrix is that matrices is that Q transposed is Q inverse, and therefore it has a nice computational property. Recently, to my ...
7
votes
3answers
524 views

Favourite proofs with a visualization

As a fan of 'visual' proofs, I love the book Visual Complex Analysis by Tristan Needham. For example, this picture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pythagoras_algebraic2.svg leads quickly to ...
7
votes
3answers
148 views

What does the vector space $\mathbb{R}^{\mathbb{R}}$ look like?

I can imagine $\mathbb{R}^{\mathbb{N}}$. For instance, the set of real series is part of this space, as is any infinite (but discrete numbered) tuple of reals. But how can I imagine $\mathbb{R}^{\...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

How to visualize the Gaussian curvature of a 3D surface using color?

I have a 3D surface. I want to visualize color-coded Gaussian curvature. Is there any software (e.g. MATLAB, Mathematica) which can be used for calculating and visualizing the curvature in color code (...