Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On The Importance of Mathematics

(cartoon via xkcd)

Antonio Cangiano:
Mathematics is the queen of science and the language of nature. Its importance should be clear to any reasonable person. It is easy however to diminish the value of certain areas of research because they’re currently thought as having little practical use.

It is an understandable and even excusable fallacy that there are useful fields of math and useless ones, based on the perception of their applied or theoretical nature. But it’s still a misconception. Each theorem and discovery is a little piece of a larger puzzle that we conveniently categorize into aptly labeled macro-areas. Discoveries and mathematical ideas that are perceived as “useful” today because they’re applicable to engineering, for example, were at a certain point in time considered absolutely abstract and useless, or at least derived or intrinsically connected to some that were. Mathematics matters; all of it.

On the net I found an incredible lecture by the brilliant mathematician Timothy Gowers, entitled “The Importance of Mathematics”. In this keynote, Prof. Gowers makes a very strong case in favor of the value of math, of financing its relatively cheap research and its deep implications on human progress. You can watch the 8 parts that compose the whole video, in the following playlist:

Here is a a PDF of the transcript.

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