**nhaliday : soft-question**
97

big list - Are there proofs that you feel you did not "understand" for a long time? - MathOverflow

nibble q-n-a overflow soft-question big-list math proofs expert-experience heavyweights gowers mathtariat reflection learning intricacy grokkability intuition algebra math.GR motivation math.GN topology synthesis math.CT computation tcs logic iteration-recursion math.CA extrema smoothness span-cover grokkability-clarity

august 2019 by nhaliday

nibble q-n-a overflow soft-question big-list math proofs expert-experience heavyweights gowers mathtariat reflection learning intricacy grokkability intuition algebra math.GR motivation math.GN topology synthesis math.CT computation tcs logic iteration-recursion math.CA extrema smoothness span-cover grokkability-clarity

august 2019 by nhaliday

The Existential Risk of Math Errors - Gwern.net

july 2019 by nhaliday

How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors:

1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)

2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

...

TYPE I > TYPE II?

“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”

- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

...

Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.

...

Leslie Lamport advocates for machine-checked proofs and a more rigorous style of proofs similar to natural deduction, noting a mathematician acquaintance guesses at a broad error rate of 1/329 and that he routinely found mistakes in his own proofs and, worse, believed false conjectures30.

[more on these "structured proofs":

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/52435/does-anyone-actually-publish-structured-proofs

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/35727/community-experiences-writing-lamports-structured-proofs

]

We can probably add software to that list: early software engineering work found that, dismayingly, bug rates seem to be simply a function of lines of code, and one would expect diseconomies of scale. So one would expect that in going from the ~4,000 lines of code of the Microsoft DOS operating system kernel to the ~50,000,000 lines of code in Windows Server 2003 (with full systems of applications and libraries being even larger: the comprehensive Debian repository in 2007 contained ~323,551,126 lines of code) that the number of active bugs at any time would be… fairly large. Mathematical software is hopefully better, but practitioners still run into issues (eg Durán et al 2014, Fonseca et al 2017) and I don’t know of any research pinning down how buggy key mathematical systems like Mathematica are or how much published mathematics may be erroneous due to bugs. This general problem led to predictions of doom and spurred much research into automated proof-checking, static analysis, and functional languages31.

[related:

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/11517/computer-algebra-errors

I don't know any interesting bugs in symbolic algebra packages but I know a true, enlightening and entertaining story about something that looked like a bug but wasn't.

Define sinc𝑥=(sin𝑥)/𝑥.

Someone found the following result in an algebra package: ∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥=𝜋/2

They then found the following results:

...

So of course when they got:

∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥sinc(𝑥/3)sinc(𝑥/5)⋯sinc(𝑥/15)=(467807924713440738696537864469/935615849440640907310521750000)𝜋

hmm:

Which means that nobody knows Fourier analysis nowdays. Very sad and discouraging story... – fedja Jan 29 '10 at 18:47

--

Because the most popular systems are all commercial, they tend to guard their bug database rather closely -- making them public would seriously cut their sales. For example, for the open source project Sage (which is quite young), you can get a list of all the known bugs from this page. 1582 known issues on Feb.16th 2010 (which includes feature requests, problems with documentation, etc).

That is an order of magnitude less than the commercial systems. And it's not because it is better, it is because it is younger and smaller. It might be better, but until SAGE does a lot of analysis (about 40% of CAS bugs are there) and a fancy user interface (another 40%), it is too hard to compare.

I once ran a graduate course whose core topic was studying the fundamental disconnect between the algebraic nature of CAS and the analytic nature of the what it is mostly used for. There are issues of logic -- CASes work more or less in an intensional logic, while most of analysis is stated in a purely extensional fashion. There is no well-defined 'denotational semantics' for expressions-as-functions, which strongly contributes to the deeper bugs in CASes.]

...

Should such widely-believed conjectures as P≠NP or the Riemann hypothesis turn out be false, then because they are assumed by so many existing proofs, a far larger math holocaust would ensue38 - and our previous estimates of error rates will turn out to have been substantial underestimates. But it may be a cloud with a silver lining, if it doesn’t come at a time of danger.

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/338607/why-doesnt-mathematics-collapse-down-even-though-humans-quite-often-make-mista

more on formal methods in programming:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/formal-verification-creates-hacker-proof-code-20160920/

https://intelligence.org/2014/03/02/bob-constable/

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/375342/what-are-the-barriers-that-prevent-widespread-adoption-of-formal-methods

Update: measured effort

In the October 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM there is an interesting article about Formally verified software in the real world with some estimates of the effort.

Interestingly (based on OS development for military equipment), it seems that producing formally proved software requires 3.3 times more effort than with traditional engineering techniques. So it's really costly.

On the other hand, it requires 2.3 times less effort to get high security software this way than with traditionally engineered software if you add the effort to make such software certified at a high security level (EAL 7). So if you have high reliability or security requirements there is definitively a business case for going formal.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE USE FORMAL METHODS?: https://www.hillelwayne.com/post/why-dont-people-use-formal-methods/

You can see examples of how all of these look at Let’s Prove Leftpad. HOL4 and Isabelle are good examples of “independent theorem” specs, SPARK and Dafny have “embedded assertion” specs, and Coq and Agda have “dependent type” specs.6

If you squint a bit it looks like these three forms of code spec map to the three main domains of automated correctness checking: tests, contracts, and types. This is not a coincidence. Correctness is a spectrum, and formal verification is one extreme of that spectrum. As we reduce the rigour (and effort) of our verification we get simpler and narrower checks, whether that means limiting the explored state space, using weaker types, or pushing verification to the runtime. Any means of total specification then becomes a means of partial specification, and vice versa: many consider Cleanroom a formal verification technique, which primarily works by pushing code review far beyond what’s humanly possible.

...

The question, then: “is 90/95/99% correct significantly cheaper than 100% correct?” The answer is very yes. We all are comfortable saying that a codebase we’ve well-tested and well-typed is mostly correct modulo a few fixes in prod, and we’re even writing more than four lines of code a day. In fact, the vast… [more]

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1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)

2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

...

TYPE I > TYPE II?

“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”

- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

...

Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.

...

Leslie Lamport advocates for machine-checked proofs and a more rigorous style of proofs similar to natural deduction, noting a mathematician acquaintance guesses at a broad error rate of 1/329 and that he routinely found mistakes in his own proofs and, worse, believed false conjectures30.

[more on these "structured proofs":

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/52435/does-anyone-actually-publish-structured-proofs

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/35727/community-experiences-writing-lamports-structured-proofs

]

We can probably add software to that list: early software engineering work found that, dismayingly, bug rates seem to be simply a function of lines of code, and one would expect diseconomies of scale. So one would expect that in going from the ~4,000 lines of code of the Microsoft DOS operating system kernel to the ~50,000,000 lines of code in Windows Server 2003 (with full systems of applications and libraries being even larger: the comprehensive Debian repository in 2007 contained ~323,551,126 lines of code) that the number of active bugs at any time would be… fairly large. Mathematical software is hopefully better, but practitioners still run into issues (eg Durán et al 2014, Fonseca et al 2017) and I don’t know of any research pinning down how buggy key mathematical systems like Mathematica are or how much published mathematics may be erroneous due to bugs. This general problem led to predictions of doom and spurred much research into automated proof-checking, static analysis, and functional languages31.

[related:

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/11517/computer-algebra-errors

I don't know any interesting bugs in symbolic algebra packages but I know a true, enlightening and entertaining story about something that looked like a bug but wasn't.

Define sinc𝑥=(sin𝑥)/𝑥.

Someone found the following result in an algebra package: ∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥=𝜋/2

They then found the following results:

...

So of course when they got:

∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥sinc(𝑥/3)sinc(𝑥/5)⋯sinc(𝑥/15)=(467807924713440738696537864469/935615849440640907310521750000)𝜋

hmm:

Which means that nobody knows Fourier analysis nowdays. Very sad and discouraging story... – fedja Jan 29 '10 at 18:47

--

Because the most popular systems are all commercial, they tend to guard their bug database rather closely -- making them public would seriously cut their sales. For example, for the open source project Sage (which is quite young), you can get a list of all the known bugs from this page. 1582 known issues on Feb.16th 2010 (which includes feature requests, problems with documentation, etc).

That is an order of magnitude less than the commercial systems. And it's not because it is better, it is because it is younger and smaller. It might be better, but until SAGE does a lot of analysis (about 40% of CAS bugs are there) and a fancy user interface (another 40%), it is too hard to compare.

I once ran a graduate course whose core topic was studying the fundamental disconnect between the algebraic nature of CAS and the analytic nature of the what it is mostly used for. There are issues of logic -- CASes work more or less in an intensional logic, while most of analysis is stated in a purely extensional fashion. There is no well-defined 'denotational semantics' for expressions-as-functions, which strongly contributes to the deeper bugs in CASes.]

...

Should such widely-believed conjectures as P≠NP or the Riemann hypothesis turn out be false, then because they are assumed by so many existing proofs, a far larger math holocaust would ensue38 - and our previous estimates of error rates will turn out to have been substantial underestimates. But it may be a cloud with a silver lining, if it doesn’t come at a time of danger.

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/338607/why-doesnt-mathematics-collapse-down-even-though-humans-quite-often-make-mista

more on formal methods in programming:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/formal-verification-creates-hacker-proof-code-20160920/

https://intelligence.org/2014/03/02/bob-constable/

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/375342/what-are-the-barriers-that-prevent-widespread-adoption-of-formal-methods

Update: measured effort

In the October 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM there is an interesting article about Formally verified software in the real world with some estimates of the effort.

Interestingly (based on OS development for military equipment), it seems that producing formally proved software requires 3.3 times more effort than with traditional engineering techniques. So it's really costly.

On the other hand, it requires 2.3 times less effort to get high security software this way than with traditionally engineered software if you add the effort to make such software certified at a high security level (EAL 7). So if you have high reliability or security requirements there is definitively a business case for going formal.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE USE FORMAL METHODS?: https://www.hillelwayne.com/post/why-dont-people-use-formal-methods/

You can see examples of how all of these look at Let’s Prove Leftpad. HOL4 and Isabelle are good examples of “independent theorem” specs, SPARK and Dafny have “embedded assertion” specs, and Coq and Agda have “dependent type” specs.6

If you squint a bit it looks like these three forms of code spec map to the three main domains of automated correctness checking: tests, contracts, and types. This is not a coincidence. Correctness is a spectrum, and formal verification is one extreme of that spectrum. As we reduce the rigour (and effort) of our verification we get simpler and narrower checks, whether that means limiting the explored state space, using weaker types, or pushing verification to the runtime. Any means of total specification then becomes a means of partial specification, and vice versa: many consider Cleanroom a formal verification technique, which primarily works by pushing code review far beyond what’s humanly possible.

...

The question, then: “is 90/95/99% correct significantly cheaper than 100% correct?” The answer is very yes. We all are comfortable saying that a codebase we’ve well-tested and well-typed is mostly correct modulo a few fixes in prod, and we’re even writing more than four lines of code a day. In fact, the vast… [more]

july 2019 by nhaliday

What's the expected level of paper for top conferences in Computer Science - Academia Stack Exchange

june 2019 by nhaliday

Top. The top level.

My experience on program committees for STOC, FOCS, ITCS, SODA, SOCG, etc., is that there are FAR more submissions of publishable quality than can be accepted into the conference. By "publishable quality" I mean a well-written presentation of a novel, interesting, and non-trivial result within the scope of the conference.

...

There are several questions that come up over and over in the FOCS/STOC review cycle:

- How surprising / novel / elegant / interesting is the result?

- How surprising / novel / elegant / interesting / general are the techniques?

- How technically difficult is the result? Ironically, FOCS and STOC committees have a reputation for ignoring the distinction between trivial (easy to derive from scratch) and nondeterministically trivial (easy to understand after the fact).

- What is the expected impact of this result? Is this paper going to change the way people do theoretical computer science over the next five years?

- Is the result of general interest to the theoretical computer science community? Or is it only of interest to a narrow subcommunity? In particular, if the topic is outside the STOC/FOCS mainstream—say, for example, computational topology—does the paper do a good job of explaining and motivating the results to a typical STOC/FOCS audience?

nibble
q-n-a
overflow
academia
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cs
meta:research
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scholar
lens
properties
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increase-decrease
soft-question
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search
complexity
analogy
problem-solving
elegance
synthesis
hi-order-bits
novelty
discovery
My experience on program committees for STOC, FOCS, ITCS, SODA, SOCG, etc., is that there are FAR more submissions of publishable quality than can be accepted into the conference. By "publishable quality" I mean a well-written presentation of a novel, interesting, and non-trivial result within the scope of the conference.

...

There are several questions that come up over and over in the FOCS/STOC review cycle:

- How surprising / novel / elegant / interesting is the result?

- How surprising / novel / elegant / interesting / general are the techniques?

- How technically difficult is the result? Ironically, FOCS and STOC committees have a reputation for ignoring the distinction between trivial (easy to derive from scratch) and nondeterministically trivial (easy to understand after the fact).

- What is the expected impact of this result? Is this paper going to change the way people do theoretical computer science over the next five years?

- Is the result of general interest to the theoretical computer science community? Or is it only of interest to a narrow subcommunity? In particular, if the topic is outside the STOC/FOCS mainstream—say, for example, computational topology—does the paper do a good job of explaining and motivating the results to a typical STOC/FOCS audience?

june 2019 by nhaliday

soft question - What are good non-English languages for mathematicians to know? - MathOverflow

february 2019 by nhaliday

I'm with Deane here: I think learning foreign languages is not a very mathematically productive thing to do; of course, there are lots of good reasons to learn foreign languages, but doing mathematics is not one of them. Not only are there few modern mathematics papers written in languages other than English, but the primary other language they are written (French) in is pretty easy to read without actually knowing it.

Even though I've been to France several times, my spoken French mostly consists of "merci," "si vous plait," "d'accord" and some food words; I've still skimmed 100 page long papers in French without a lot of trouble.

If nothing else, think of reading a paper in French as a good opportunity to teach Google Translate some mathematical French.

q-n-a
overflow
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Even though I've been to France several times, my spoken French mostly consists of "merci," "si vous plait," "d'accord" and some food words; I've still skimmed 100 page long papers in French without a lot of trouble.

If nothing else, think of reading a paper in French as a good opportunity to teach Google Translate some mathematical French.

february 2019 by nhaliday

reference request - Essays and thoughts on mathematics - MathOverflow

q-n-a overflow nibble list big-list math writing essay reflection soft-question links meta:math philosophy big-picture thurston gowers meaningness virtu metameta wisdom p:null heavyweights technical-writing communication

february 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow nibble list big-list math writing essay reflection soft-question links meta:math philosophy big-picture thurston gowers meaningness virtu metameta wisdom p:null heavyweights technical-writing communication

february 2017 by nhaliday

soft question - What do you do when you cannot make progress on the problem you have been working on? - Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

q-n-a overflow tcs soft-question scholar frontier problem-solving advice discussion orourke nibble hard-core meta:research s:* info-dynamics expert-experience crux

february 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow tcs soft-question scholar frontier problem-solving advice discussion orourke nibble hard-core meta:research s:* info-dynamics expert-experience crux

february 2017 by nhaliday

general topology - What should be the intuition when working with compactness? - Mathematics Stack Exchange

january 2017 by nhaliday

http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/485822/why-is-compactness-so-important

The situation with compactness is sort of like the above. It turns out that finiteness, which you think of as one concept (in the same way that you think of "Foo" as one concept above), is really two concepts: discreteness and compactness. You've never seen these concepts separated before, though. When people say that compactness is like finiteness, they mean that compactness captures part of what it means to be finite in the same way that shortness captures part of what it means to be Foo.

--

As many have said, compactness is sort of a topological generalization of finiteness. And this is true in a deep sense, because topology deals with open sets, and this means that we often "care about how something behaves on an open set", and for compact spaces this means that there are only finitely many possible behaviors.

--

Compactness does for continuous functions what finiteness does for functions in general.

If a set A is finite then every function f:A→R has a max and a min, and every function f:A→R^n is bounded. If A is compact, the every continuous function from A to R has a max and a min and every continuous function from A to R^n is bounded.

If A is finite then every sequence of members of A has a subsequence that is eventually constant, and "eventually constant" is the only kind of convergence you can talk about without talking about a topology on the set. If A is compact, then every sequence of members of A has a convergent subsequence.

q-n-a
overflow
math
topology
math.GN
concept
finiteness
atoms
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oly
mathtariat
multi
discrete
gowers
motivation
synthesis
hi-order-bits
soft-question
limits
things
nibble
definition
convergence
abstraction
span-cover
The situation with compactness is sort of like the above. It turns out that finiteness, which you think of as one concept (in the same way that you think of "Foo" as one concept above), is really two concepts: discreteness and compactness. You've never seen these concepts separated before, though. When people say that compactness is like finiteness, they mean that compactness captures part of what it means to be finite in the same way that shortness captures part of what it means to be Foo.

--

As many have said, compactness is sort of a topological generalization of finiteness. And this is true in a deep sense, because topology deals with open sets, and this means that we often "care about how something behaves on an open set", and for compact spaces this means that there are only finitely many possible behaviors.

--

Compactness does for continuous functions what finiteness does for functions in general.

If a set A is finite then every function f:A→R has a max and a min, and every function f:A→R^n is bounded. If A is compact, the every continuous function from A to R has a max and a min and every continuous function from A to R^n is bounded.

If A is finite then every sequence of members of A has a subsequence that is eventually constant, and "eventually constant" is the only kind of convergence you can talk about without talking about a topology on the set. If A is compact, then every sequence of members of A has a convergent subsequence.

january 2017 by nhaliday

ho.history overview - History of the high-dimensional volume paradox - MathOverflow

q-n-a overflow math math.MG geometry spatial dimensionality limits measure concentration-of-measure history stories giants cartoons soft-question nibble paradox novelty high-dimension examples gotchas recruiting

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow math math.MG geometry spatial dimensionality limits measure concentration-of-measure history stories giants cartoons soft-question nibble paradox novelty high-dimension examples gotchas recruiting

january 2017 by nhaliday

set theory - What are interesting families of subsets of a given set? - MathOverflow

january 2017 by nhaliday

This fascinating essay by Gromov discusses the issue of "interesting" substructures in a very general way.

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p:someday
closure
ideas
sub-super
january 2017 by nhaliday

mg.metric geometry - How to explain the concentration-of-measure phenomenon intuitively? - MathOverflow

q-n-a overflow soft-question math geometry probability intuition tcstariat orourke concentration-of-measure dimensionality tcs math.MG random pigeonhole-markov nibble paradox novelty high-dimension s:** spatial elegance

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow soft-question math geometry probability intuition tcstariat orourke concentration-of-measure dimensionality tcs math.MG random pigeonhole-markov nibble paradox novelty high-dimension s:** spatial elegance

january 2017 by nhaliday

soft question - Examples of unexpected mathematical images - MathOverflow

january 2017 by nhaliday

interesting story from Terry Tao about discovery of compressed sensing

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overflow
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math
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list
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research
gowers
mathtariat
pic
sparsity
fourier
stories
liner-notes
norms
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compressed-sensing
the-trenches
🔬
IEEE
discovery
compression
elegance
january 2017 by nhaliday

ag.algebraic geometry - Why do combinatorial abstractions of geometric objects behave so well? - MathOverflow

q-n-a overflow math math.CO geometry synthesis intuition soft-question todo regularity math.AG math.RT polynomials positivity monotonicity nibble abstraction signum guessing

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow math math.CO geometry synthesis intuition soft-question todo regularity math.AG math.RT polynomials positivity monotonicity nibble abstraction signum guessing

january 2017 by nhaliday

st.statistics - Why is it so cool to square numbers (in terms of finding the standard deviation)? - MathOverflow

q-n-a overflow math stats concept motivation curiosity oly mathtariat probability soft-question acm moments nibble definition limits concentration-of-measure s:* characterization

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow math stats concept motivation curiosity oly mathtariat probability soft-question acm moments nibble definition limits concentration-of-measure s:* characterization

january 2017 by nhaliday

ho.history overview - Proofs that require fundamentally new ways of thinking - MathOverflow

january 2017 by nhaliday

my favorite:

Although this has already been said elsewhere on MathOverflow, I think it's worth repeating that Gromov is someone who has arguably introduced more radical thoughts into mathematics than anyone else. Examples involving groups with polynomial growth and holomorphic curves have already been cited in other answers to this question. I have two other obvious ones but there are many more.

I don't remember where I first learned about convergence of Riemannian manifolds, but I had to laugh because there's no way I would have ever conceived of a notion. To be fair, all of the groundwork for this was laid out in Cheeger's thesis, but it was Gromov who reformulated everything as a convergence theorem and recognized its power.

Another time Gromov made me laugh was when I was reading what little I could understand of his book Partial Differential Relations. This book is probably full of radical ideas that I don't understand. The one I did was his approach to solving the linearized isometric embedding equation. His radical, absurd, but elementary idea was that if the system is sufficiently underdetermined, then the linear partial differential operator could be inverted by another linear partial differential operator. Both the statement and proof are for me the funniest in mathematics. Most of us view solving PDE's as something that requires hard work, involving analysis and estimates, and Gromov manages to do it using only elementary linear algebra. This then allows him to establish the existence of isometric embedding of Riemannian manifolds in a wide variety of settings.

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big-picture
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wild-ideas
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discovery
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elegance
Although this has already been said elsewhere on MathOverflow, I think it's worth repeating that Gromov is someone who has arguably introduced more radical thoughts into mathematics than anyone else. Examples involving groups with polynomial growth and holomorphic curves have already been cited in other answers to this question. I have two other obvious ones but there are many more.

I don't remember where I first learned about convergence of Riemannian manifolds, but I had to laugh because there's no way I would have ever conceived of a notion. To be fair, all of the groundwork for this was laid out in Cheeger's thesis, but it was Gromov who reformulated everything as a convergence theorem and recognized its power.

Another time Gromov made me laugh was when I was reading what little I could understand of his book Partial Differential Relations. This book is probably full of radical ideas that I don't understand. The one I did was his approach to solving the linearized isometric embedding equation. His radical, absurd, but elementary idea was that if the system is sufficiently underdetermined, then the linear partial differential operator could be inverted by another linear partial differential operator. Both the statement and proof are for me the funniest in mathematics. Most of us view solving PDE's as something that requires hard work, involving analysis and estimates, and Gromov manages to do it using only elementary linear algebra. This then allows him to establish the existence of isometric embedding of Riemannian manifolds in a wide variety of settings.

january 2017 by nhaliday

soft question - What are some slogans that express mathematical tricks? - MathOverflow

q-n-a overflow math list big-list soft-question synthesis yoga tricks aphorism big-picture proofs nibble tricki math.CA math.FA inner-product estimate local-global uniqueness synchrony math.AT symmetry extrema existence wisdom quantifiers-sums probabilistic-method concentration-of-measure p:whenever s:** elegance

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow math list big-list soft-question synthesis yoga tricks aphorism big-picture proofs nibble tricki math.CA math.FA inner-product estimate local-global uniqueness synchrony math.AT symmetry extrema existence wisdom quantifiers-sums probabilistic-method concentration-of-measure p:whenever s:** elegance

january 2017 by nhaliday

big list - Rigour leading to insight - Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

q-n-a overflow tcs soft-question big-list list research confusion aaronson tcstariat synthesis rigor meta:math proofs liner-notes nibble quantum quantum-info the-trenches insight info-dynamics reason elegance

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow tcs soft-question big-list list research confusion aaronson tcstariat synthesis rigor meta:math proofs liner-notes nibble quantum quantum-info the-trenches insight info-dynamics reason elegance

january 2017 by nhaliday

cc.complexity theory - What is the complexity class most closely associated with what the human mind can accomplish quickly? - Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

q-n-a overflow tcs neuro psychology cog-psych cool interdisciplinary soft-question complexity neurons rigor vague nibble thinking applications retrofit computation

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow tcs neuro psychology cog-psych cool interdisciplinary soft-question complexity neurons rigor vague nibble thinking applications retrofit computation

january 2017 by nhaliday

soft question - What kind of mathematical background is needed for complexity theory? - Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

q-n-a overflow tcs complexity ground-up soft-question advice discussion oly linear-algebra probability probabilistic-method math.CO boolean-analysis coding-theory information-theory math.RT markov algebra fields nibble knowledge reading accretion recommendations list books

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a overflow tcs complexity ground-up soft-question advice discussion oly linear-algebra probability probabilistic-method math.CO boolean-analysis coding-theory information-theory math.RT markov algebra fields nibble knowledge reading accretion recommendations list books

january 2017 by nhaliday

pr.probability - What is convolution intuitively? - MathOverflow

january 2017 by nhaliday

I remember as a graduate student that Ingrid Daubechies frequently referred to convolution by a bump function as "blurring" - its effect on images is similar to what a short-sighted person experiences when taking off his or her glasses (and, indeed, if one works through the geometric optics, convolution is not a bad first approximation for this effect). I found this to be very helpful, not just for understanding convolution per se, but as a lesson that one should try to use physical intuition to model mathematical concepts whenever one can.

More generally, if one thinks of functions as fuzzy versions of points, then convolution is the fuzzy version of addition (or sometimes multiplication, depending on the context). The probabilistic interpretation is one example of this (where the fuzz is a a probability distribution), but one can also have signed, complex-valued, or vector-valued fuzz, of course.

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retrofit
optics
concrete
s:*
multiplicative
fourier
More generally, if one thinks of functions as fuzzy versions of points, then convolution is the fuzzy version of addition (or sometimes multiplication, depending on the context). The probabilistic interpretation is one example of this (where the fuzz is a a probability distribution), but one can also have signed, complex-valued, or vector-valued fuzz, of course.

january 2017 by nhaliday

soft question - Thinking and Explaining - MathOverflow

january 2017 by nhaliday

- good question from Bill Thurston

- great answers by Terry Tao, fedja, Minhyong Kim, gowers, etc.

Terry Tao:

- symmetry as blurring/vibrating/wobbling, scale invariance

- anthropomorphization, adversarial perspective for estimates/inequalities/quantifiers, spending/economy

fedja walks through his though-process from another answer

Minhyong Kim: anthropology of mathematical philosophizing

Per Vognsen: normality as isotropy

comment: conjugate subgroup gHg^-1 ~ "H but somewhere else in G"

gowers: hidden things in basic mathematics/arithmetic

comment by Ryan Budney: x sin(x) via x -> (x, sin(x)), (x, y) -> xy

I kinda get what he's talking about but needed to use Mathematica to get the initial visualization down.

To remind myself later:

- xy can be easily visualized by juxtaposing the two parabolae x^2 and -x^2 diagonally

- x sin(x) can be visualized along that surface by moving your finger along the line (x, 0) but adding some oscillations in y direction according to sin(x)

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big-list
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communication
teaching
math
thinking
writing
thurston
lens
overflow
synthesis
hi-order-bits
👳
insight
meta:math
clarity
nibble
giants
cartoons
gowers
mathtariat
better-explained
stories
the-trenches
problem-solving
homogeneity
symmetry
fedja
examples
philosophy
big-picture
vague
isotropy
reflection
spatial
ground-up
visual-understanding
polynomials
dimensionality
math.GR
worrydream
scholar
🎓
neurons
metabuch
yoga
retrofit
mental-math
metameta
wisdom
wordlessness
oscillation
operational
adversarial
quantifiers-sums
exposition
explanation
tricki
concrete
s:***
manifolds
invariance
dynamical
info-dynamics
cool
direction
elegance
heavyweights
analysis
guessing
grokkability-clarity
technical-writing
- great answers by Terry Tao, fedja, Minhyong Kim, gowers, etc.

Terry Tao:

- symmetry as blurring/vibrating/wobbling, scale invariance

- anthropomorphization, adversarial perspective for estimates/inequalities/quantifiers, spending/economy

fedja walks through his though-process from another answer

Minhyong Kim: anthropology of mathematical philosophizing

Per Vognsen: normality as isotropy

comment: conjugate subgroup gHg^-1 ~ "H but somewhere else in G"

gowers: hidden things in basic mathematics/arithmetic

comment by Ryan Budney: x sin(x) via x -> (x, sin(x)), (x, y) -> xy

I kinda get what he's talking about but needed to use Mathematica to get the initial visualization down.

To remind myself later:

- xy can be easily visualized by juxtaposing the two parabolae x^2 and -x^2 diagonally

- x sin(x) can be visualized along that surface by moving your finger along the line (x, 0) but adding some oscillations in y direction according to sin(x)

january 2017 by nhaliday

Fourier transform for dummies - Mathematics Stack Exchange

q-n-a big-list fourier intuition math visual-understanding motivation overflow soft-question ground-up nibble qra concept init IEEE space sky models occam parsimony stories history iron-age mediterranean the-classics

january 2017 by nhaliday

q-n-a big-list fourier intuition math visual-understanding motivation overflow soft-question ground-up nibble qra concept init IEEE space sky models occam parsimony stories history iron-age mediterranean the-classics

january 2017 by nhaliday

definition - Why square the difference instead of taking the absolute value in standard deviation? - Cross Validated

stats acm motivation synthesis q-n-a discussion probability tidbits overflow soft-question bias-variance curiosity moments robust comparison nibble s:* characterization limits concentration-of-measure

december 2016 by nhaliday

stats acm motivation synthesis q-n-a discussion probability tidbits overflow soft-question bias-variance curiosity moments robust comparison nibble s:* characterization limits concentration-of-measure

december 2016 by nhaliday

gt.geometric topology - Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking - MathOverflow

december 2016 by nhaliday

Terry Tao:

I can't help you much with high-dimensional topology - it's not my field, and I've not picked up the various tricks topologists use to get a grip on the subject - but when dealing with the geometry of high-dimensional (or infinite-dimensional) vector spaces such as R^n, there are plenty of ways to conceptualise these spaces that do not require visualising more than three dimensions directly.

For instance, one can view a high-dimensional vector space as a state space for a system with many degrees of freedom. A megapixel image, for instance, is a point in a million-dimensional vector space; by varying the image, one can explore the space, and various subsets of this space correspond to various classes of images.

One can similarly interpret sound waves, a box of gases, an ecosystem, a voting population, a stream of digital data, trials of random variables, the results of a statistical survey, a probabilistic strategy in a two-player game, and many other concrete objects as states in a high-dimensional vector space, and various basic concepts such as convexity, distance, linearity, change of variables, orthogonality, or inner product can have very natural meanings in some of these models (though not in all).

It can take a bit of both theory and practice to merge one's intuition for these things with one's spatial intuition for vectors and vector spaces, but it can be done eventually (much as after one has enough exposure to measure theory, one can start merging one's intuition regarding cardinality, mass, length, volume, probability, cost, charge, and any number of other "real-life" measures).

For instance, the fact that most of the mass of a unit ball in high dimensions lurks near the boundary of the ball can be interpreted as a manifestation of the law of large numbers, using the interpretation of a high-dimensional vector space as the state space for a large number of trials of a random variable.

More generally, many facts about low-dimensional projections or slices of high-dimensional objects can be viewed from a probabilistic, statistical, or signal processing perspective.

Scott Aaronson:

Here are some of the crutches I've relied on. (Admittedly, my crutches are probably much more useful for theoretical computer science, combinatorics, and probability than they are for geometry, topology, or physics. On a related note, I personally have a much easier time thinking about R^n than about, say, R^4 or R^5!)

1. If you're trying to visualize some 4D phenomenon P, first think of a related 3D phenomenon P', and then imagine yourself as a 2D being who's trying to visualize P'. The advantage is that, unlike with the 4D vs. 3D case, you yourself can easily switch between the 3D and 2D perspectives, and can therefore get a sense of exactly what information is being lost when you drop a dimension. (You could call this the "Flatland trick," after the most famous literary work to rely on it.)

2. As someone else mentioned, discretize! Instead of thinking about R^n, think about the Boolean hypercube {0,1}^n, which is finite and usually easier to get intuition about. (When working on problems, I often find myself drawing {0,1}^4 on a sheet of paper by drawing two copies of {0,1}^3 and then connecting the corresponding vertices.)

3. Instead of thinking about a subset S⊆R^n, think about its characteristic function f:R^n→{0,1}. I don't know why that trivial perspective switch makes such a big difference, but it does ... maybe because it shifts your attention to the process of computing f, and makes you forget about the hopeless task of visualizing S!

4. One of the central facts about R^n is that, while it has "room" for only n orthogonal vectors, it has room for exp(n) almost-orthogonal vectors. Internalize that one fact, and so many other properties of R^n (for example, that the n-sphere resembles a "ball with spikes sticking out," as someone mentioned before) will suddenly seem non-mysterious. In turn, one way to internalize the fact that R^n has so many almost-orthogonal vectors is to internalize Shannon's theorem that there exist good error-correcting codes.

5. To get a feel for some high-dimensional object, ask questions about the behavior of a process that takes place on that object. For example: if I drop a ball here, which local minimum will it settle into? How long does this random walk on {0,1}^n take to mix?

Gil Kalai:

This is a slightly different point, but Vitali Milman, who works in high-dimensional convexity, likes to draw high-dimensional convex bodies in a non-convex way. This is to convey the point that if you take the convex hull of a few points on the unit sphere of R^n, then for large n very little of the measure of the convex body is anywhere near the corners, so in a certain sense the body is a bit like a small sphere with long thin "spikes".

q-n-a
intuition
math
visual-understanding
list
discussion
thurston
tidbits
aaronson
tcs
geometry
problem-solving
yoga
👳
big-list
metabuch
tcstariat
gowers
mathtariat
acm
overflow
soft-question
levers
dimensionality
hi-order-bits
insight
synthesis
thinking
models
cartoons
coding-theory
information-theory
probability
concentration-of-measure
magnitude
linear-algebra
boolean-analysis
analogy
arrows
lifts-projections
measure
markov
sampling
shannon
conceptual-vocab
nibble
degrees-of-freedom
worrydream
neurons
retrofit
oscillation
paradox
novelty
tricki
concrete
high-dimension
s:***
manifolds
direction
curvature
convexity-curvature
elegance
guessing
I can't help you much with high-dimensional topology - it's not my field, and I've not picked up the various tricks topologists use to get a grip on the subject - but when dealing with the geometry of high-dimensional (or infinite-dimensional) vector spaces such as R^n, there are plenty of ways to conceptualise these spaces that do not require visualising more than three dimensions directly.

For instance, one can view a high-dimensional vector space as a state space for a system with many degrees of freedom. A megapixel image, for instance, is a point in a million-dimensional vector space; by varying the image, one can explore the space, and various subsets of this space correspond to various classes of images.

One can similarly interpret sound waves, a box of gases, an ecosystem, a voting population, a stream of digital data, trials of random variables, the results of a statistical survey, a probabilistic strategy in a two-player game, and many other concrete objects as states in a high-dimensional vector space, and various basic concepts such as convexity, distance, linearity, change of variables, orthogonality, or inner product can have very natural meanings in some of these models (though not in all).

It can take a bit of both theory and practice to merge one's intuition for these things with one's spatial intuition for vectors and vector spaces, but it can be done eventually (much as after one has enough exposure to measure theory, one can start merging one's intuition regarding cardinality, mass, length, volume, probability, cost, charge, and any number of other "real-life" measures).

For instance, the fact that most of the mass of a unit ball in high dimensions lurks near the boundary of the ball can be interpreted as a manifestation of the law of large numbers, using the interpretation of a high-dimensional vector space as the state space for a large number of trials of a random variable.

More generally, many facts about low-dimensional projections or slices of high-dimensional objects can be viewed from a probabilistic, statistical, or signal processing perspective.

Scott Aaronson:

Here are some of the crutches I've relied on. (Admittedly, my crutches are probably much more useful for theoretical computer science, combinatorics, and probability than they are for geometry, topology, or physics. On a related note, I personally have a much easier time thinking about R^n than about, say, R^4 or R^5!)

1. If you're trying to visualize some 4D phenomenon P, first think of a related 3D phenomenon P', and then imagine yourself as a 2D being who's trying to visualize P'. The advantage is that, unlike with the 4D vs. 3D case, you yourself can easily switch between the 3D and 2D perspectives, and can therefore get a sense of exactly what information is being lost when you drop a dimension. (You could call this the "Flatland trick," after the most famous literary work to rely on it.)

2. As someone else mentioned, discretize! Instead of thinking about R^n, think about the Boolean hypercube {0,1}^n, which is finite and usually easier to get intuition about. (When working on problems, I often find myself drawing {0,1}^4 on a sheet of paper by drawing two copies of {0,1}^3 and then connecting the corresponding vertices.)

3. Instead of thinking about a subset S⊆R^n, think about its characteristic function f:R^n→{0,1}. I don't know why that trivial perspective switch makes such a big difference, but it does ... maybe because it shifts your attention to the process of computing f, and makes you forget about the hopeless task of visualizing S!

4. One of the central facts about R^n is that, while it has "room" for only n orthogonal vectors, it has room for exp(n) almost-orthogonal vectors. Internalize that one fact, and so many other properties of R^n (for example, that the n-sphere resembles a "ball with spikes sticking out," as someone mentioned before) will suddenly seem non-mysterious. In turn, one way to internalize the fact that R^n has so many almost-orthogonal vectors is to internalize Shannon's theorem that there exist good error-correcting codes.

5. To get a feel for some high-dimensional object, ask questions about the behavior of a process that takes place on that object. For example: if I drop a ball here, which local minimum will it settle into? How long does this random walk on {0,1}^n take to mix?

Gil Kalai:

This is a slightly different point, but Vitali Milman, who works in high-dimensional convexity, likes to draw high-dimensional convex bodies in a non-convex way. This is to convey the point that if you take the convex hull of a few points on the unit sphere of R^n, then for large n very little of the measure of the convex body is anywhere near the corners, so in a certain sense the body is a bit like a small sphere with long thin "spikes".

december 2016 by nhaliday

predictive models - Is this the state of art regression methodology? - Cross Validated

november 2016 by nhaliday

I've been following Kaggle competitions for a long time and I come to realize that many winning strategies involve using at least one of the "big threes": bagging, boosting and stacking.

For regressions, rather than focusing on building one best possible regression model, building multiple regression models such as (Generalized) linear regression, random forest, KNN, NN, and SVM regression models and blending the results into one in a reasonable way seems to out-perform each individual method a lot of times.

q-n-a
state-of-art
machine-learning
acm
data-science
atoms
overflow
soft-question
regression
ensembles
nibble
oly
For regressions, rather than focusing on building one best possible regression model, building multiple regression models such as (Generalized) linear regression, random forest, KNN, NN, and SVM regression models and blending the results into one in a reasonable way seems to out-perform each individual method a lot of times.

november 2016 by nhaliday

soft question - A Book You Would Like to Write - MathOverflow

october 2016 by nhaliday

- The Differential Topology of Loop Spaces

- Knot Theory: Kawaii examples for topological machines

- An Introduction to Forcing (for people who don't care about foundations.)

writing
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discussion
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open-problems
logic
nibble
fedja
questions
- Knot Theory: Kawaii examples for topological machines

- An Introduction to Forcing (for people who don't care about foundations.)

october 2016 by nhaliday

real analysis - How do people apply the Lebesgue integration theory? - Mathematics Stack Exchange

october 2016 by nhaliday

main reason for using Lebesgue measure: completeness of L^p spaces

motivation
math.CA
math
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explanation
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math.FA
curiosity
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nibble
integral
convergence
limits
october 2016 by nhaliday

machine learning - What kind of answer does TCS want to the question "Why do neural networks work so well?" - Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

q-n-a discussion off-convex deep-learning machine-learning research research-program overflow soft-question hi-order-bits no-go rigor clarity nibble explanans elegance grokkability-clarity

october 2016 by nhaliday

q-n-a discussion off-convex deep-learning machine-learning research research-program overflow soft-question hi-order-bits no-go rigor clarity nibble explanans elegance grokkability-clarity

october 2016 by nhaliday

What should one who is creating a 'summary note' (scribe note, lecture note, etc.) for an advanced mathematics course care about? - Quora

q-n-a notetaking advice learning productivity reflection qra soft-question scholar oly mathtariat nibble studying s:null hi-order-bits synthesis cartoons problem-solving summary metabuch checklists yoga zooming visual-understanding retention metameta math top-n list the-trenches meta:research knowledge skeleton chart big-picture visualization

september 2016 by nhaliday

q-n-a notetaking advice learning productivity reflection qra soft-question scholar oly mathtariat nibble studying s:null hi-order-bits synthesis cartoons problem-solving summary metabuch checklists yoga zooming visual-understanding retention metameta math top-n list the-trenches meta:research knowledge skeleton chart big-picture visualization

september 2016 by nhaliday

machine learning - Euclidean distance is usually not good for sparse data? - Cross Validated

machine-learning acm intuition synthesis thinking q-n-a sparsity overflow soft-question dimensionality curiosity separation concentration-of-measure norms nibble novelty high-dimension direction metric-space yoga measure inner-product best-practices

september 2016 by nhaliday

machine-learning acm intuition synthesis thinking q-n-a sparsity overflow soft-question dimensionality curiosity separation concentration-of-measure norms nibble novelty high-dimension direction metric-space yoga measure inner-product best-practices

september 2016 by nhaliday

machine learning - Why is Euclidean distance not a good metric in high dimensions? - Cross Validated

thinking machine-learning math acm synthesis intuition q-n-a overflow soft-question dimensionality hi-order-bits curiosity cartoons concentration-of-measure norms nibble novelty high-dimension direction metric-space yoga measure best-practices

september 2016 by nhaliday

thinking machine-learning math acm synthesis intuition q-n-a overflow soft-question dimensionality hi-order-bits curiosity cartoons concentration-of-measure norms nibble novelty high-dimension direction metric-space yoga measure best-practices

september 2016 by nhaliday

notation - Why does mathematical convention deal so ineptly with multisets? - Mathematics Stack Exchange

thinking language math history q-n-a worrydream thurston overflow soft-question notation meta:math intricacy conceptual-vocab nibble elegance worse-is-better/the-right-thing heavyweights form-design

july 2016 by nhaliday

thinking language math history q-n-a worrydream thurston overflow soft-question notation meta:math intricacy conceptual-vocab nibble elegance worse-is-better/the-right-thing heavyweights form-design

july 2016 by nhaliday

soft question - Lemma/Proposition/Theorem, which one should we pick? - Mathematics Stack Exchange

june 2016 by nhaliday

seems this is more contentious than I thought

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june 2016 by nhaliday

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