107
votes
8answers
5k views

Continuous function $f:\mathbb{R}\to\mathbb{R}$ such that $f(f(x)) = -x$?

I've been perusing the internet looking for interesting problems to solve. I found the following problem and have been going at it for the past 30 minutes with no success: Find a continuous ...
107
votes
8answers
8k views

Importance of Representation Theory

Representation theory is a subject I want to like (it can be fun finding the representations of a group), but it's hard for me to see it as a subject that arises naturally or why it is important. I ...
107
votes
10answers
4k views

what is expected from a PhD student?

As a PhD student in applied mathematics or mathematics in general, are you expected to be able to prove every problem, for example, in an elementary real analysis book? I know it sounds silly but I am ...
107
votes
8answers
7k views

Why is Euler's Gamma function the “best” extension of the factorial function to the reals?

There are lots (an infinitude) of smooth functions that coincide with f(n)=n! on the integers. Is there a simple reason why Euler's Gamma function $\Gamma (z) = \int_0^\infty t^{z-1} e^t dt$ is "best"...
107
votes
7answers
3k views

What remains in a student's mind [closed]

I'm a first year graduate student of mathematics and I have an important question. I like studying math and when I attend, a course I try to study in the best way possible, with different textbooks ...
106
votes
20answers
15k views

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

How to prove $$\int_{0}^{\infty} \mathrm{e}^{-x^2}\, dx = \frac{\sqrt \pi}{2}$$
106
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 ...
106
votes
7answers
17k views

Tablet for reading textbooks and writing math by hand?

I am a math student. I'd like to find out if tablets (iPads, Galaxy Note 10.1) are worth the cost. How good are tablets for the purposes of reading textbooks as PDF and writing mathematics with a ...
105
votes
33answers
13k 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. I'...
105
votes
34answers
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 ...
105
votes
8answers
6k 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 self-...
105
votes
23answers
24k views
105
votes
5answers
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: $$f(x)=\...
105
votes
5answers
13k views

What is the Riemann-Zeta function?

In laymen's terms, as much as possible: What is the Riemann-Zeta function, and why does it come up so often with relation to prime numbers?
104
votes
4answers
18k 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 ...
104
votes
1answer
21k views

Can $x^{x^{x^x}}$ be a rational number?

If $x$ is a positive rational number, but not an integer, then can $x^{x^{x^x}}$ be a rational number ? We can prove that if $x$ is a positive rational number but not an integer, then $x^x$ can not ...
103
votes
8answers
6k views

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

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 ...
103
votes
12answers
8k 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 ...
103
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. ...
102
votes
16answers
14k views

Is 10 closer to infinity than 1?

This may be considered a philosophy but is the number "10" closer to infinity than the number "1"?
102
votes
4answers
13k views

What is the probability that a point chosen randomly from inside an equilateral triangle is closer to the center than to any of the edges?

My friend gave me this puzzle: What is the probability that a point chosen at random from the interior of an equilateral triangle is closer to the center than any of its edges? I tried to ...
102
votes
9answers
30k 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 all....
102
votes
0answers
3k views

Generalizing $\int_{0}^{1} \frac{\arctan\sqrt{x^{2} + 2}}{\sqrt{x^{2} + 2}} \, \frac{\operatorname dx}{x^{2}+1} = \frac{5\pi^{2}}{96}$

The following integral \begin{align*} \int_{0}^{1} \frac{\arctan\sqrt{x^{2} + 2}}{\sqrt{x^{2} + 2}} \, \frac{dx}{x^{2}+1} = \frac{5\pi^{2}}{96} \tag{1} \end{align*} is called the Ahmed's integral ...
101
votes
12answers
12k views

Can you be 1/12th Cherokee?

I was watching an old Daily Show clip and someone self-identified as "one twelfth Cherokee". It sounded peculiar, as people usually state they're "1/16th", or generally $1/2^n, n \in \mathbb{N}$. ...
101
votes
25answers
39k 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 ...
101
votes
4answers
21k views

Norms Induced by Inner Products and the Parallelogram Law

Let $ V $ be a normed vector space (over $\mathbb{R}$, say, for simplicity) with norm $ \lVert\cdot\rVert$. It's not hard to show that if $\lVert \cdot \rVert = \sqrt{\langle \cdot, \cdot \rangle}$ ...
101
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 ...
100
votes
15answers
14k 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 ...
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: ...
100
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 $$\int_0^1 \tan^{-1}\left[\frac{\tanh^{-1}x-\tan^{-1}x}{\pi+\tanh^{-1}x-\tan^{-1}x}\right]\frac{dx}{x}$$ $$=\frac{\pi}{8}\ln\frac{\pi^2}{8}?$$
99
votes
15answers
9k 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 ...
99
votes
13answers
10k views

Why do we use the word “scalar” and not “number” in Linear Algebra?

During a year and half of studying Linear Algebra in academy, I have never questioned why we use the word "scalar" and not "number". When I started the course our professor said we would use "scalar" ...
99
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
99
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 ...
98
votes
15answers
21k 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 ...
98
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 ...
98
votes
8answers
14k 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 ...
98
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 ...
97
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 ...
97
votes
27answers
9k views

Is there any integral for the Golden Ratio?

This is a curiosity. I was wondering about math important/famous constants, like $e$, $\pi$, $\gamma$ and obviously $\phi$. The first three ones are really well known, and there are lots of integrals ...
97
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 ...
97
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 ...
96
votes
18answers
13k 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 ...
96
votes
23answers
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 $ . ...
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 ...
96
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
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 ...
96
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: $$[x,y^{-1},z]^y[y,z^...
95
votes
3answers
23k views

Evaluate $\int_0^1 \frac{\log \left( 1+x^{2+\sqrt{3}}\right)}{1+x}\mathrm dx$

I am trying to find a closed form for $$\int_0^1 \frac{\log \left( 1+x^{2+\sqrt{3}}\right)}{1+x}\mathrm dx = 0.094561677526995723016 \cdots$$ It seems that the answer is $$\frac{\pi^2}{12}\left( 1-\...
95
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 $\...

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