Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Why do I love maths? – A maths student’s apology

To start off my entry into the ‘blogosphere’, I am going to explain, in the style of G.H Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology, why I love maths and why you should too.

Firstly, I love maths because it ranges from the simplest ideas, such as 1+1=2, to such incredibly complex thoughts as Graham’s Number and the Riemann Hypothesis. This means that anyone can do maths; it is not limited to a select few as neurobiology is, and you don’t need to be in the top 100 people to understand it as is the case with quantum physics. Also, all of the complex, difficult and high-level pieces of mathematics are all dependant on the simplest of axioms and can be most proven from them. This amazes me, how so many proofs, conjectures, theorems, theories and hypotheses can all stem from the numbers 1, 2, 3 etc.
“Mathematics allows for no hypocrisy and no vagueness.” Stendhal

Maths is also useful yet remains self-rewarding. Although maths nowadays is used for so much of our modern life, from binary in technology to cyphers for internet banking, the thrill of maths often comes from the doing of the maths. Maths for the sake of maths. This gives maths an artistic quality, and both areas are similar in many ways. In the same way some may find a Mondrian painting beautiful, I find Pascal’s triangle beautiful and in the same way multiple artists can see one painting in many different ways, many different results can come from one mathematical concept.
“A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns” G.H Hardy

In addition, maths is permanent; it was as true one thousand years ago as it is today and will be in one thousand years time. As Hardy wrote in A Mathematician’s Apology:
“Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. ‘Immortality’ may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean.”

In the same way, maths can be generalised meaning there will never be a right-angled triangle that Pythagoras’s Theorem does not apply to and there will never be another even prime after two. As well as this, the answer to a maths problem is the answer, there are no different interpretations or other possible viewpoints. If you have the mark scheme to a maths exam, you will be able to get full marks unlike an English or History exam in which it is about your opinion, your interpretation or the way you put forward your ideas. This, to me, gives mathematics a sense of permanence, which is becoming more and more rare in this ever-changing world.

Maths is also fundamental to many subjects and real life. As Galileo wrote:
“Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”
Every science requires mathematics for the calculations and ideas it holds, all engineers require mathematics, artists and architects use mathematics perhaps without knowing it, all computers and computer scientists rely on mathematics… Almost everything needs mathematics and in that way maths is fundamental to our society and everyday life. But I don’t think that means we should do maths, as I said before maths is self-rewarding not done for its results but for the process of finding them.
“All science requires mathematics.” Roger Bacon
All-in-all, mathematics is beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, simple yet complex, accessible, fun, permanent, artistic, useful yet self-rewarding, fundamental and interesting. That is why I love it.
“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” Albert Einstein

I would love to hear your opinions on why you do or don’t love maths so please leave a comment below.


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