Monday, February 14, 2005

The number's up

Maths was never my strongest subject at school. The teachers always ended up pandering to the top five students in the class, at the expense of everyone else. So I got left behind. I used to think that maths was boring, arduous and complex, and that somehow I had missed something important that would unlock the inner workings of the subject. I grew to despair going to class, not being able to understand anything. I began to treat it in an off-hand way: "I'll never need to use that in real life. I mean, polynomials? Imaginary numbers? Aye, right!"

I couldn't have been more wrong.

You see, maths is complex, but only because it has an immense history behind it. Centuries of development and evolution of ideas. For me, I needed to put everything I had learned (or not learned) into context. I needed to understand the origins of maths, and its progression; From counting and natural numbers, through algebra and calculus.
I have a respect of those who have The Maths, and in particular, The Calculus. Maths is a fascinating area of science, with new discoveries extending the base theories. It is surely one of humankind's crowning acheivements, and indeed one upon which several other important advancements are founded: Our modern existence would be impossible without it - a toolmaker's tool.
Not only are numbers of utilitarian value, but also a source of pleasure. There are numbers that are more bizzare and incredible than anything in art: The ubiquitous Pi, the imaginary number i, the Golden Ratio Phi (which can be found almost everywhere in nature), Euler's number e, which is its' own derivative, etc.
There are functions like the sine and cosine, beautiful in their simplicity, yet indispensable and profound. Ingenious processes like trigonometry, differentiation and integration. Systems like algebra and geometry. These were brought about not only through logic, but by the imagination.

So I intend to persevere, and hopefully with practise it won't seem like such a mystery. As an engineering student, I guess I should know this stuff - It comes down to a matter of simply doing the work.

In matters unrelated:

Does anyone know where David DeRosa's blog has gone? The URL was It was really good, too...

Best Regards,



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