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Steven Strogatz Writes About the Elements of Mathematics

Cornell University professor Steven Strogatz, will be offering a series of math articles in The New York Times. The mathematician says, he will be covering subject matter from pre-school to grad school.

The information it's not intended for young people, this time Strogatz writes from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial, either. In his first installment, From Fish to Infinity, he writes: "The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it."

Where exactly do numbers come from?

After describing the dual aspect of the concept of number and decide that its conception requires a great percentage of abstraction, the mathematician comes to conclude:

"A further subtlety is that numbers (and all mathematical ideas, for that matter) have lives of their own. We can’t control them. Even though they exist in our minds, once we decide what we mean by them we have no say in how they behave. They obey certain laws and have certain properties, personalities, and ways of combining with one another, and there’s nothing we can do about it except watch and try to understand. In that sense they are eerily reminiscent of atoms and stars, the things of this world, which are likewise subject to laws beyond our control … except that those things exist outside our heads."

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  1. Thanks for the heads up. I'll try to check this out.

  2. What a neat article series! Thanks for pointing us to it.