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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday December 06, @12:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the but-this-submission-is-too-small-to-contain-it dept.

One of the world's greatest mathematicians, Sir Andrew Wiles, made a rare public appearance in the Science Museum this week to discuss his latest research, his belief in the value of struggle, and how to inspire the next generation.
...
Terms such as 'elegance' and 'beauty' are bandied around by many mathematicians. What do they mean? They are hard to explain but Sir Andrew likened the mathematical equivalent of experiencing the rapture of beauty to walking down a path to explore a garden by the great landscape architect Capability Brown, when a breathtaking vista suddenly beckons. In other words, elegance in mathematics 'is this surprise element of suddenly see everything clarified and beautiful.'

But you should 'not stare at it non-stop', he warned, else the majesty will fade, as is also the case with great paintings and music.

Today he is still walking through the great garden of mathematics, 'the language of science,' he said. Another way Sir Andrew described his lifelong passion to the rapt audience was as a 'beautiful edifice...the most permanent thing there is.'

Industry and government realise that mathematicians are the lifeblood of a modern economy but are concerned by the lack of uptake of maths. Most young people 'do have a real appetite for mathematics', said Sir Andrew, but they are put off because, he believes, their teachers are not viscerally interested in the subject.

Sir Andrew Wiles famously proved Fermat's Last Theorem.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @01:01AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @01:01AM (#605928)

    Summary last paragraph said:
    "Industry and government realise that mathematicians are the lifeblood of a modern economy but are concerned by the lack of uptake of maths. Most young people ‘do have a real appetite for mathematics’, said Sir Andrew, but they are put off because, he believes, their teachers are not viscerally interested in the subject."

    I would disagree with all of that.
    Math is too "basic research" to be appreciated by govt or industry.
    Also, not everyone enjoys math. Never will.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MostCynical on Wednesday December 06, @01:15AM (5 children)

      by MostCynical (2589) on Wednesday December 06, @01:15AM (#605934)

      I think he is talking about Applied Mathematics, or possibly engineering (as applied-Applied Mathematics?)
      Industry and governments want "new technology", "innovation" and "sales" (or "a growing economy")
      These come from scientists.
      Mathematics is useful, if not necessary, for all this.
      Students want new(est) gizmo/phone/tablet/watch/whatever.

      I doubt many want to study much of anything.

      Fun stuff they might enjoy - mathematics can be fun, but it is not just the teacher's fault - the curriculum in most OECD countries is very very boring.

      --
      (Score: tau, Irrational)
      • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Wednesday December 06, @02:53AM (4 children)

        by jelizondo (653) on Wednesday December 06, @02:53AM (#605962)

        So, in your view cryptography and statistics are applied-applied Mathematics or just applied Mathematics?

        Think about crypto-currencies, blockchain and high-speed trading before you answer. Do you think industry and government are not interested in such purely mathematical endeavors?

        Even Maduro’s Venezuela just released a crypto-currency, so I think engineers will have jobs for the foreseeable future but mathematicians are coming out of the basement and into corner offices in Wall Street and the Pentagon, and of course, the government of Venezuela :-)

        • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Wednesday December 06, @03:12AM (1 child)

          by MostCynical (2589) on Wednesday December 06, @03:12AM (#605970)

          The interest is not in mathematics. The interest is in outcomes.

          See the submission about the state of R&D a few weeks ago - mathematics is similar to investment in R&D - something that costs money, and eats into bonuses and dividends.

          --
          (Score: tau, Irrational)
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @09:13PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @09:13PM (#606410)

            > something that costs money, and turns into bonuses and dividends.

            FTFY

        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @05:08AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @05:08AM (#605996)

          Sure, greedy assholes are abusing math to get Wall Street jobs, but what of purists who don't fucking care about cryptoshitcoin? Die in the gutter, of course!

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:21PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:21PM (#606131)

            A similar point is people who are interested in big data but don't want to undermine people's privacy by working for a company that wholesale gathers data on everyone. Much harder to find a job if your values preclude certain things.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by aristarchus on Wednesday December 06, @06:12AM (3 children)

    by aristarchus (2645) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @06:12AM (#606006) Journal

    I recommend Lockhart's Lament [maa.org] to everyone. Math teacher who sees the truth. A sample:

    What is happening is the systematic undermining of the student’s intuition. A proof, that is,
    a mathematical argument, is a work of fiction, a poem. Its goal is to satisfy. A beautiful proof
    should explain, and it should explain clearly, deeply, and elegantly. A well-written, well-crafted
    argument should feel like a splash of cool water, and be a beacon of light— it should refresh the
    spirit and illuminate the mind. And it should be charming.

    --
    If you could ensure that your submissions are balanced, accurate and unbiased, you might stand a better chance
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:15PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:15PM (#606129)

      Math proofs can be beautiful to those who find math beautiful.
      To those who don't, it's just a tedious bunch of statements culminating in an uninteresting result.
      Beauty is subjective, interest is personal.

      Even within math there is personal taste. I find calculus very interesting and elegant, but matrix algebra always struck me as kludgey and boring.

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @09:21PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @09:21PM (#606415)

        I pity the fool who doesn't find at least one of these topics interesting:

        * Are there infinite prime numbers?
        * Is there always another number between 2 (different) numbers?
        * How to identify and rank influences in a large, possibly incomplete dataset? (Netflix problem)

        The last one relates to your matrix algebra objection.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 10, @05:44PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 10, @05:44PM (#608021)

          Are there infinite prime numbers?

          Yes

          Is there always another number between 2 (different) numbers?

          Yes

          NEXT!

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