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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Bigness of Math and Other Things


Unification... it's not just for physics anymore. A "theory of everything" (or TOE), unifying our knowledge of the Universe's laws), has been a goal of physicists for quite awhile now. In a nice, short piece, Peter Lynch points out that unification is similarly an ongoing objective within mathematics:

http://thatsmaths.com/2014/03/20/the-unity-of-mathematics/

He writes that there is a "tendency for mathematics to fracture into many disparate areas," but "From time to time, sweeping simplifications arise [in mathematics] when seemingly unrelated areas are embraced in a single unifying framework."

He points out a few historical examples before noting that there is "a marked distinction between discrete and continuous mathematics," and then citing the Langlands Program, which is also "intimately related to modern physics," as the current attempt to unify all of mathematics (it was given widespread publicity with Ed Frenkel's 2013 book, "Love and Math.")

Anyway, a quick, non-technical read. 

In another straightforward, non-technical... and timely... read, Mark Chu-Carroll explains why it could take soooo long to find Malaysia flight 370 -- i.e., why our intuition for big numbers is not very good. A Boeing 777 is a big, BIG, BIG plane... but even a patch of ocean is so many times BIGGER!:

http://www.goodmath.org/blog/2014/03/19/big-numbers-and-the-lost-plane/

[...As I type these words the latest news rumor coming in is that debris spotted off of Australia MIGHT be from the lost plane...]

 

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