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Questions tagged [visualization]

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

1160
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66answers
494k views

Visually stunning math concepts which are easy to explain

Since I'm not that good at (as I like to call it) 'die-hard-mathematics', I've always liked concepts like the golden ratio or the dragon curve, which are easy to understand and explain but are ...
265
votes
13answers
10k views

Help with a prime number spiral which turns 90 degrees at each prime

I awoke with the following puzzle and I would like to investigate but the answer may require some programming (it may not either). I have asked on the meta site and believe the question to be ...
151
votes
23answers
12k 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 interpretation ...
135
votes
15answers
17k views

What's new in higher dimensions?

This is a very speculative/soft question; please keep this in mind when reading it. Here "higher" means "greater than 3". What I am wondering about is what new geometrical phenomena are there in ...
120
votes
25answers
25k 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 ...
114
votes
5answers
12k 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: ...
76
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
64
votes
1answer
881 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 ...
61
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
51
votes
14answers
41k 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 ...
51
votes
7answers
16k views

Visualizing the 4th dimension.

In a freshers lecture of 3-D geometry, our teacher said that 3-D objects can be viewed as projections of 4-D objects. How does this helps us visualize 4-D objects? I searched that we can at least see ...
51
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the explanation for this visual proof of the sum of squares?

Supposedly the following proves the sum of the first-$n$-squares formula given the sum of the first $n$ numbers formula, but I don't understand it.
39
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
35
votes
4answers
3k views

Is there an intuitive way of visualising complex roots?

Consider the function $f(x)$ such that $f(x) = x^2-4x+13$. By considering the discriminant, it can immediately be seen that the function has no real roots, since $b^2-4ac = (-4)^2-4(13) = -36$ and $-...
34
votes
13answers
5k views

A way to directly see that the interior angles of triangle sum to $180^\circ$?

I'm looking for a way to look at a triangle, and perhaps visualize a few extra lines, and be able to see that the interior angles sum to $180^\circ$. I can visualize that supplementary angles sum to $...
31
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
31
votes
1answer
789 views

Proof without words of $\oint zdz = 0$ and $\oint dz/z = 2\pi i$

I found this visual "proof" of $\oint zdz = 0$ and $\oint dz/z = 2\pi i$ quite compelling and first want to share it with you. But I have a real question, too, which I will ask at the end of this post,...
29
votes
3answers
981 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 ...
29
votes
1answer
487 views

A random walk on a finite square with prime numbers

This question is following two similar questions that you can find here and here. The idea is to walk on a square of length $n\times n$, following some rules. We will identify the opposite sides. ...
27
votes
3answers
605 views

A prime number random walk

This question came to my mind thanks to this question which I found really interesting (and beautiful! Like the mathematician Philippe Caldero said in his book Histoires Hédonistes de Groupes et de ...
27
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1answer
2k 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 ...
26
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4answers
5k 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 ...
25
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
24
votes
4answers
2k 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: $$(n+1)^2 - n^2 = (n+1) +n$$ ...
24
votes
2answers
246 views

An enigmatic pattern in division graphs

Draw the numbers $1,2,\dots,N$ on a circle and draw a line from $n$ to $m>n$ when $n$ divides $m$: For larger $N$ some kind of stable structure emerges which remains perfectly in place for ever ...
23
votes
0answers
535 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
2k views

Infinite area under curve without using derivatives and integrals

I am looking for a function $f$ with the following properties: $f$ is continuous on $[0,\infty[$ $f(0)=1$ $f(x)\to0$ as $x\to\infty$ $\int_0^{\infty} f(x) \,\mathrm{d}x = \infty$ It is not difficult ...
22
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
22
votes
1answer
597 views

Why is this family of dynamical systems able to produce spirals and clusters of points?

I have found by trial and error an interesting family of dynamical systems giving some nice strange attractors. They are chaotic complex systems based on the digamma function. It is defined by a ...
21
votes
3answers
13k views

Intuitive Way To Understand Principal Component Analysis

I know that this is meant to explain variance but the description on Wikipedia stinks and it is not clear how you can explain variance using this technique Can anyone explain it in a simple way?
21
votes
2answers
395 views

Polar plots of $\sin(kx)$

The plots of $\sin(kx)$ over the real line are somehow boring and look essentially all the same: For larger $k$ you cannot easily tell which $k$ it is (not only due to Moiré effects): But when ...
20
votes
1answer
245 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 ...
19
votes
2answers
2k views

Geometric interpretation of Young's inequality

Is there a geometric interpretation of Young's inequality, $$ab \leq \frac{a^{p}}{p} + \frac{b^{q}}{q}$$ with $\dfrac{1}{p}+\dfrac{1}{q} = 1$? My attempt is to say that $ab$ could be the surface of ...
19
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
19
votes
1answer
218 views

Strangely but closely related parametrized curves

Compare the following two parametrized curves for $k \in \mathbb{N}^+$: $$x_r(t) = \cos(t)(1 + r\sin(kt))$$ $$y_r(t) = \sin(t)(1 + r\sin(kt))$$ with $0 \leq t < 2\pi$ and $0 \leq r \leq 1$ (being ...
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 ...
17
votes
7answers
2k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
7k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
422 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
3answers
192 views

Visualized group tables for $\mathbb{Z}$ and $\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z}$

Let me share a kind of visualization of group tables which is especially well suited for cyclic groups like $\mathbb{Z}$ and $\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z}$. In these groups you can easily give colors to ...
17
votes
1answer
373 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 ...
16
votes
10answers
5k 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
2k 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, ...
16
votes
0answers
196 views

The famous prime race and generalizations

So I was messing around with the famous prime race that comes down to this: We make a list of primes. The list has two rows; the top row is for primes $1\mod 4$ and the bottom row for primes $3\mod 4$...
15
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0answers
269 views

Geometric representation of Euler-Maclaurin Summation Formula

When reading Tom Apostol's expository article (or the free link), I was expecting more diagrams to come that follow the figure below (or this from the Wolfram project). It was a disappointment not ...
14
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2answers
1k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
473 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 ...
13
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4answers
8k 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
4k views

Gradient is NOT the direction that points to the minimum or maximum

I understand that the gradient is the direction of steepest descent (ref: Why is gradient the direction of steepest ascent? and Gradient of a function as the direction of steepest ascent/descent). ...
13
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2answers
3k views

How do I visualize differential equations?

OK, I got an exam in about a week, and there is a point that I don't really got my head around yet. Our professor likes to give for example three pictures and one differential equation. The question ...