Sunday, March 6, 2016

Essential Knowledge...

A Sunday reflection from K.C. Cole (in "The Universe and the Teacup;" from 1998, but perhaps appropriate to some of the debate happening today):
"Used correctly, math can expose the glitches in our perceptual apparatus that lead to common illusions -- such as our inability to perceive the difference between millions and billions -- and give us relatively simple ways of protecting ourselves from our own ignorance. As the physicist Richard Feynman once said: 'Science is a long history of learning how not to fool ourselves.' A knowledge of the mathematics behind our ideas can help us to fool ourselves a little less often, with less drastic consequences.
"In short, math matters -- a lot more than most people think. We have to make life-and-death decisions based on what numbers tell us. We cannot afford to remain dumb about mathematical ideas simply because we hated them in high school -- any more than we can remain dumb about computers, or AIDS. Mathematics is essential, not peripheral, knowledge."

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