99
votes
4answers
2k views

Hyperbolic critters studying Euclidean geometry

You've spent your whole life in the hyperbolic plane. It's second nature to you that the area of a triangle depends only on its angles, and it seems absurd to suggest that it could ever be otherwise. ...
98
votes
32answers
17k 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 ...
98
votes
19answers
4k views

Past open problems with sudden and easy-to-understand solutions

What are some examples of mathematical facts that had once been open problems for a significant amount of time and thought hard or unsolvable by contemporary methods, but were then unexpectedly solved ...
98
votes
4answers
11k views

How do I convince someone that $1+1=2$ may not necessarily be true?

Me and my friend were arguing over this "fact" that we all know and hold dear. However, I do know that $1+1=2$ is an axiom. That is why I beg to differ. Neither of us have the required mathematical ...
98
votes
1answer
8k views

What's the significance of Tate's thesis?

I've just sat through several lectures that proved most of the results in Tate's thesis: the self-duality of the adeles, the construction of "zeta functions" by integration, and the proof of the ...
98
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
15answers
13k views

Why do both sine and cosine exist?

Cosine is just a change in the argument of sine, and vice versa. $$\sin(x+\pi/2)=\cos(x)$$ $$\cos(x-\pi/2)=\sin(x)$$ So why do we have both of them? Do they both exist simply for convenience in ...
97
votes
3answers
6k views

Grothendieck 's question - any update?

I was reading Barry Mazur's biography and come across this part: Grothendieck was exceptionally patient with me, for when we first met I knew next to nothing about algebra. In one of his first ...
96
votes
33answers
12k views

What are the most overpowered theorems in mathematics? [closed]

What are the most overpowered theorems in mathematics? By "overpowered," I mean theorems that allow disproportionately strong conclusions to be drawn from minimal / relatively simple assumptions. ...
96
votes
18answers
10k views

How to distinguish walking on a sphere or on a torus?

Imagine that you're a flatlander walking in your world. How could you distinguish if the world is a sphere or a torus ? I can't see the difference from this point of view. If you are interested, this ...
96
votes
8answers
5k views

Self-Contained Proof that $\sum\limits_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac1{n^p}$ Converges for $p > 1$

To prove the convergence of $$\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac1{n^p}$$ for $p > 1$, one typically appeals to either the Integral Test or the Cauchy Condensation Test. I am wondering if there is a ...
96
votes
23answers
21k views
96
votes
11answers
6k views

Is there a domain “larger” than (i.e., a supserset of) the complex number domain?

I've been teaching my 10yo son some (for me, anyway) pretty advanced mathematics recently and he stumped me with a question. The background is this. In the domain of natural numbers, addition and ...
95
votes
28answers
8k views

What are some examples of notation that really improved mathematics? [closed]

I've always felt that the concise, suggestive nature of the written language of mathematics is one of the reasons it can be so powerful. Off the top of my head I can think of a few notational ...
95
votes
8answers
5k views

Evaluating $\lim_{n\to\infty} e^{-n} \sum\limits_{k=0}^{n} \frac{n^k}{k!}$

I'm supposed to calculate: $$\lim_{n\to\infty} e^{-n} \sum_{k=0}^{n} \frac{n^k}{k!}$$ By using W|A, i may guess that the limit is $\frac{1}{2}$ that is a pretty interesting and nice result. I ...
95
votes
4answers
3k views

Proof of $\frac{1}{e^{\pi}+1}+\frac{3}{e^{3\pi}+1}+\frac{5}{e^{5\pi}+1}+\ldots=\frac{1}{24}$

I would like to prove that $\displaystyle\sum_{\substack{n=1\\n\text{ odd}}}^{\infty}\frac{n}{e^{n\pi}+1}=\frac1{24}$. I found a solution by myself 10 hours after I posted it, here it is: ...
95
votes
2answers
4k views

How to prove $\int_0^1\tan^{-1}\left[\frac{\tanh^{-1}x-\tan^{-1}x}{\pi+\tanh^{-1}x-\tan^{-1}x}\right]\frac{dx}{x}=\frac{\pi}{8}\ln\frac{\pi^2}{8}?$

How can one prove that $$\int_0^1 \tan^{-1}\left[\frac{\tanh^{-1}x-\tan^{-1}x}{\pi+\tanh^{-1}x-\tan^{-1}x}\right]\frac{dx}{x}$$ $$=\frac{\pi}{8}\ln\frac{\pi^2}{8}?$$
94
votes
8answers
13k views

Are half of all numbers odd?

Plato puts the following words in Socrates' mouth in the Phaedo dialogue: I mean, for instance, the number three, and there are many other examples. Take the case of three; do you not think it may ...
94
votes
12answers
7k views

Why is compactness so important?

I've read many times that 'compactness' is such an extremely important and useful concept, though it's still not very apparent why. The only theorems I've seen concerning it are the Heine-Borel ...
94
votes
2answers
3k views

Does a four-variable analog of the Hall-Witt identity exist?

Lately I have been thinking about commutator formulas, sparked by rereading the following paragraph in Isaacs (p.125): An amazing commutator formula is the Hall-Witt identity: ...
93
votes
15answers
8k views

Infiniteness of non-twin primes.

Well, we all know the twin prime conjecture. There are infinitely many primes $p$, such that $p+2$ is also prime. Well, I actually got asked in a discrete mathematics course, to prove that there are ...
93
votes
20answers
19k views

Visually deceptive “proofs” which are mathematically wrong [closed]

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 ...
93
votes
17answers
8k views

What parts of a pure mathematics undergraduate curriculum have been discovered since 1964?

What parts of an undergraduate curriculum in pure mathematics have been discovered since, say, 1964? (I'm choosing this because it's 50 years ago). Pure mathematics textbooks from before 1964 seem to ...
93
votes
10answers
5k views

How far can one get in analysis without leaving $\mathbb{Q}$?

Suppose you're trying to teach analysis to a stubborn algebraist who refuses to acknowledge the existence of any characteristic $0$ field other than $\mathbb{Q}$. How ugly are things going to get for ...
92
votes
14answers
19k views

Are there real-life relations which are symmetric and reflexive but not transitive?

Inspired by Halmos (Naive Set Theory) . . . For each of these three possible properties [reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity], find a relation that does not have that property but does have ...
92
votes
6answers
7k views

Is non-standard analysis worth learning?

As a former physics major, I did a lot of (seemingly sloppy) calculus using the notion of infinitesimals. Recently I heard that there is a branch of math called non-standard analysis that provides ...
92
votes
4answers
14k views

Books that every student “needs” to go through

I'm still a student, but the same books keep getting named by my tutors (Rudin, Royden). I've read Baby Rudin and begun Royden though I'm unsure if there are other books that I "should" be working on ...
91
votes
18answers
11k views

Is there another simpler method to solve this elementary school math problem?

I am teaching an elementary student. He has a homework as follows. There are 16 students who use either bicycles or tricycles. The total number of wheels is 38. Find the number of students using ...
91
votes
21answers
6k 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 ...
91
votes
10answers
16k views

How can I find the surface area of a normal chicken egg?

This morning, I had eggs for breakfast, and I was looking at the pieces of broken shells and thought "What is the surface area of this egg?" The problem is that I have no real idea about how to find ...
91
votes
7answers
7k views

probability $2/4$ vs $3/6$

Recently I was asked the following in an interview: If you are a pretty good basketball player, and were betting on whether you could make $2$ out of $4$ or $3$ out of $6$ baskets, which would you ...
91
votes
8answers
46k views

Has Prof. Otelbaev shown existence of strong solutions for Navier-Stokes equations? [closed]

Moderator Notice: I am unilaterally closing this question for three reasons. The discussion here has turned too chatty and not suitable for the MSE framework. Given the recent pre-print ...
91
votes
4answers
4k views

Is there an integral that proves $\pi > 333/106$?

The following integral, $$ \int_0^1 \frac{x^4(1-x)^4}{x^2 + 1} \mathrm{d}x = \frac{22}{7} - \pi $$ is clearly positive, which proves that $\pi < 22/7$. Is there a similar integral which proves ...
91
votes
1answer
3k views

All polynomials with no natural roots and integer coefficients such that $\phi(n)|\phi(P(n))$

Let $P(x)$ be a polynomial with integer coefficients such that the equation $P(x)=0$ has no positive integer solutions. Find all polynomials $P(x)$ such that for all positive integers $n$ we have ...
90
votes
23answers
8k views

Why is there no “remainder” in multiplication

With division, you can have a remainder (such as $5/2=2$ remainder $1$). Now my six year old son has asked me "Why is there no remainder with multiplication"? The obvious answer is "because it ...
90
votes
10answers
5k views

What Does it Really Mean to Have Different Kinds of Infinities?

Can someone explain to me how there can be different kinds of infinities? I was reading "The man who loved only numbers" by Paul Hoffman and came across the concept of countable and uncountable ...
90
votes
9answers
26k views

Teaching myself differential topology and differential geometry

I have a hazy notion of some stuff in differential geometry and a better, but still not quite rigorous understanding of basics of differential topology. I have decided to fix this lacuna once for ...
90
votes
6answers
23k views

How often does it happen that the oldest person alive dies?

Today, we are brought the sad news that Europe's oldest woman died. A little over a week ago the oldest person in the U.S. unfortunately died. Yesterday, the Netherlands' oldest man died peacefully. ...
90
votes
8answers
3k views

Probability that a stick randomly broken in five places can form a tetrahedron

Edit (June. 2015) This question has been moved to MathOverflow, where a recent write-up finds a similar approximation as leonbloy's post below; see here. Randomly break a stick in five places. ...
89
votes
24answers
33k views

What is a good complex analysis textbook?

I'm out of college, and trying to learn complex analysis on my own. I took out Ahlfors' text from the library, but I'm finding it difficult. Any textbook recommendations? I'm probably at an ...
89
votes
19answers
4k views

Good Physical Demonstrations of Abstract Mathematics

I like to use physical demonstrations when teaching mathematics (putting physics in the service of mathematics, for once, instead of the other way around), and it'd be great to get some more ideas to ...
88
votes
16answers
13k views

Proving $\int_{0}^{\infty} \mathrm{e}^{-x^2} dx = \dfrac{\sqrt \pi}{2}$

How to prove $$\int_{0}^{\infty} \mathrm{e}^{-x^2}\, dx = \frac{\sqrt \pi}{2}$$
88
votes
22answers
66k views

Software for drawing geometry diagrams

What software do you use to accurately draw geometry diagrams?
88
votes
22answers
13k views

The Best of Dover Books (a.k.a the best cheap mathematical texts)

Perhaps this is a repeat question -- let me know if it is -- but I am interested in knowing the best of Dover mathematics books. The reason is because Dover books are very cheap and most other books ...
88
votes
6answers
10k views

What did Alan Turing mean when he said he didn't fully understand dy/dx?

Alan Turing's notebook has recently been sold at an auction house in London. In it he says this: Written out: The Leibniz notation $\frac{\mathrm{d}y}{\mathrm{d}x}$ I find extremely difficult ...
87
votes
22answers
12k views

If squaring a number means multiplying that number with itself then shouldn't taking square root of a number mean to divide a number by itself?

If squaring a number means multiplying that number with itself then shouldn't taking square root of a number mean to divide a number by itself? For example the square of $2$ is $2^2=2 \cdot 2=4 $ . ...
87
votes
12answers
9k views

Logic puzzle: Which octopus is telling the truth?

King Octopus has servants with six, seven, or eight legs. The servants with seven legs always lie, but the servants with either six or eight legs always tell the truth. One day, four servants met. ...
87
votes
3answers
9k views

Topology: The Board Game

Edit: I've drawn up some different rules, a map and some cards for playing an actual version of the game. They're available at my personal website with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. ...
87
votes
1answer
2k views

Is There An Injective Cubic Polynomial $\mathbb Z^2 \rightarrow \mathbb Z$?

Earlier, I was curious about whether a polynomial mapping $\mathbb Z^2\rightarrow\mathbb Z$ could be injective, and if so, what the minimum degree of such a polynomial could be. I've managed to ...
87
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a characterization of groups with the property $\forall N\unlhd G,\:\exists H\leq G\text{ s.t. }H\cong G/N$?

A common mistake for beginning group theory students is the belief that a quotient of a group $G$ is necessarily isomorphic to a subgroup of $G$. Is there a characterization of the groups in which ...

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