yesterday I wrote a post on some famous mathematicians.
Today, I’ll try to comment on research in mathematics without using one single LaTeX formula …
First of all:
No, we are not counting until 2000000120000212100434458 in our office the whole day (we take fika sometimes).
No, we are not inventing new numbers everyday in our office (or?).
Yes, ”a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee [or tea in my case] into theorems” (Alfréd Rényi, 1921-1970)
Yes, thanks to tea, coffee, or what ever, we write weird and obscure formulas, figures, or drawings on whiteboards, blackboards, papers, or everything that we find. But most importantly, we like to discuss this and show this to other mathematicians. I believe that our research is extremely collaborative. The fun part in my job is (most of the time) not to seat alone in my office, but rather to go to conferences, visit colleagues and make a blackboard white again (no reference to D.J.T.).
Yes, most of the time mathematics is abstract and useless, so what? Who knows if these things could not be used in the future? Number of applications of ”abstract” mathematics are used nowadays with mathematical results
that go back years ago, for instance:
Reed-Solomon error correction for CD, DVD, or Blue-ray (if you are not using Spotify) uses to some extend Galois theory seen in my previous post.
Applications from cryptography or spectroscopy may use group theory or algebraic geometry.
Knot theory is used in some DNA models.
The study of large and complicated network such as Facebook uses graph theory.
The design and animation of characters of any Pixar films use (old) mathematics.
Simulation of fluid flows cannot be done without solid mathematical theories.
Mathematical finance strongly rely on statistics, stochastic calculus, and probability theory.
Animal coat pattern, tumor growth models, climate models may use analysis and (stochastic) partial differential equations.
Finally: Yes, we think that mathematics is challenging and somehow beautiful.
Isn’t this the purpose of any research in any field?
If you really want to know more about my research (currently on the very s**y topic of numerical methods for stochastic partial differential equations), feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to offer you a tea or a coffee, some Swiss chocolate (if you are lucky), and we will have some fun with a blackboard (no innuendo)!
Some nice further reading for the cold (?) winter (some of them were used as sources for this post):
(by Terence Tao, Fields medalist and excellent writer!)
Thank you and have a nice day!
PS: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?