NPR story: Why Math Rocks

Why Math Rocks

Article by Marcelo Gleiser — a theoretical physicist and cosmologist and professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the co-founder of 13.7, a prolific author of papers and essays, and active promoter of science to the general public.

The number pi shows up everywhere, from statistics to wave motion to the equations of general relativity describing the expanding universe and black holes. Human brains are exceptionally attuned to identifying such patterns.

Everyone who has kids, or who remembers his/her childhood, will also remember the struggle to understand why math matters.

“Who cares about multiplication tables and fractions, triangles and algebra? Why do I need to know these things?”

The challenge with math is that if you don’t look with the right eyes, you don’t see how pervasive and all-encompassing it really is. We somehow detune ourselves from the myriad patterns that surround us, both outside and in. We don’t count heartbeats (that would drive most people mad, as you can check in this amazing Radiolab program The Heartbeat. And we don’t associate evergreens with cones or tend to analyze the symmetry in people’s faces — at least consciously. Yet, all of our gadgets and machines depend on our understanding and ability to apply math to different materials.

Read the full article on the NPR Section 13.7 website.