The poetry of mathematics and other essays

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Math and Poetry: A Terrifying and Terrific Combination: Dr. Patrick Bahls at TEDxUNCAsheville

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There are almost too many examples of the power and pervasiveness of mathematical ideas. For instance, this essay was written on a computer. But perhaps this is both too obvious and too slight an example. The personal computer is hardly an essential part of human existence, even if most of us have structured our lives around it today.


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  4. God becomes beautiful in mathematics;
  5. In other words, the more trials, the less random or mistaken the measure. You do surprisingly well and beat most of your classmates. Therefore, in order to mitigate against any selection effect, one has to run the experiment multiple times. In order to be able to see just where you actually place or rank, you have to be able to know the shape or form of the distribution of outcomes.

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    The Victorian polymath and eugenicist Sir Francis Galton first discovered and formulated the idea of regression to the mean in his studies of heredity. Genius and talent themselves being impossible to measure, Galton studied other more quantifiable phenomena, for instance, the height differences between parents and children, and the spatial distribution of falling objects. He devised a contraption called the Quincunx, and found that when uniformly dropped objects encountered small deviations think of a pinball machine with lots of stoppers , they nevertheless distributed themselves at the bottom along a normal distribution — what we generally call a bell curve.

    The bell curve, of course, is just one example of the various forms used to plot the relationship among independent and dependent variables. T he modern separation among scholars between intellectual history and the history of mathematics is untenable as mathematics might be the ultimate intellectual endeavour. In fact, one of the great shifts of modernity has been how mathematicians changed their view of mathematics, transforming the focus of their work from the study of the natural world to the study of ideas and concepts.

    Perhaps more than any other subject, mathematics is about the study of ideas. Nor are you likely to hear about the contested history of these ideas. Generally, when they talk about ideas, intellectual historians today mean political thought, cultural analysis, and maybe a sprinkling of economic and religious concepts, too. Nor has this divide been one-sided. However, the larger problem among historians of science is that, while the consolidation of the field over the previous century has been an institutional and economic success, it has segregated the field. Today, it primarily takes place within separate departments or committees, with separate training.

    This reinforces, in practice and effect, a division between the study of science and the study of society — something its own literature repeatedly criticises. One of the many damaging results of this intellectual division is that most of us — that is, those of us who are not mathematicians, physicists or engineers — adopt a view of mathematics that is primarily the product of our encounter with it in grade school.

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    For most people, unfortunately, mathematics is a set of confusing, repetitive, formalistic and abstract techniques. Yet this is exactly the opposite of how mathematicians see their own work. Akin to the best poems, they contain truths about the world perfectly expressed.

    Mathematics, Lockhart wrote, is almost always taught in a way to obscure the actual insights and reasoning, the grandeur and insight, the excitement and frustration, that drive mathematicians. Does it make sense?

    Is it simple and elegant? Does it get me closer to the heart of the matter? Ask Question. Asked 1 year, 9 months ago. Viewed times.

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    Over on Skeptics , Laurel found some partial information in a quote from Mathematics as a culture clue and other essays : I once quoted that mot to a poet, and got the quick response: "Poetry is the art of giving different names to the same thing. Ooker Ooker 8 8 bronze badges. I suspect that the second one was made up by somebody after the fact. The original Poincare quote doesn't imply to me that that's what he had in mind. He was speaking somewhat technically on the nature of how mathematical reasoning works.

    It's serious, not self-deprecating. And it's a poor description of poetry. Which makes me think that somebody was inspired by the Poincare quote and used it to derive a disparaging statement about poetry.

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    Maybe he just picked that idea in his article to form the quote, or simply forgot the second one? And what's the better description of poetry? See also this answer on Math Overflow and the comment on it. Randal'Thor can you explain why it's a poor description on math and poetry? Ooker There's a lot more to poetry than giving different names to the same thing, and there's a lot more to mathematics than giving the same name to different things. Sign up or log in Sign up using Google.

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