Science

The unreasonable ubiquity of mathematics

Math Unlimited: Essays in Mathematics

editors: R. Sujatha, H.N. Ramaswamy, C.S. Yogananda; 2012; Science Publishers/ CRC Press; $ 49.95

The word mathematics derives from the Greek word ‘Mathema,' which encompasses knowledge, study and learning. Though it is rooted in abstraction and logical reasoning, its effectiveness was recognised, and it contributed vastly to the development of geometry and astronomy. As a highly structured edifice, it is a shining example to the collective human endeavour that transcends geographical boundaries as well as chronological ones. Mathematics is perhaps unique as a subject that continually uses results and concepts developed in antiquity by different civilisations over three millennia. The earliest recorded evidence of humankind grappling with solving equations of degree three can be gleaned from Babylonian stone tablets.

Galileo Galilei is supposed to have said that mathematics is the key and door to all the sciences.

Since the Era of Enlightenment in Europe, mathematical knowledge has been crucial to developments in physics, and this continues to this day with intimate connections between theoretical physics and advanced mathematics.

Making inroads

In today's digital age, theoretical computer scientists are discovering that abstract concepts developed in mathematics are ideal in designing computer languages and in unravelling complexity of phenomena. In the last two decades, mathematics has made inroads into other areas such as biology and economics.

The intrinsic value of mathematical ideas, and the depth and beauty of abstraction, are what most mathematicians find deeply appealing.

The volume, Math Unlimited: Essays in Mathematics, is a collection of essays that spans pure and applied mathematics as well as the spread of mathematical ideas and techniques in other areas, ranging from computer science to physics and biology.

It is aimed at an audience with an interest in mathematical research and aspects of history of mathematics and highlights the pervasive nature of mathematics today in different areas.

Almost all the contributors are Indian scientists, and the volume thus gives an idea of the canvas of scientific research in the country.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 3:17:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/the-unreasonable-ubiquity-of-mathematics/article2747048.ece

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