Wednesday 17 February 2010

Pure Math and Unintended Applications

Dave Bock sent a note to the AP Math EDG about this BBC audio lecture, and I wanted to share with a little larger audience...
Dave offered, "
Were a kid to ask "When does anybody ever use this stuff? ", here are some answers.
- Dave"

Don't ask how Dave hears about BBC programs before I do...the guy is just freaky that way...

In particular, in the first five minutes, Colva Roney-Dougal (who is a lecturer in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews) explains how complex numbers influenced the birth of the electric chair (for all the wrong reasons) and became the reason we have A.C. current in the world and not D.C., as Edison hoped.

Then John Barrow, who is Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge and the Gresham Lecturer in Geometry, will give a brief history of the conics that will provide detail for any Pre-calc course. Later Marcus DeSautoy will tell you about some Babylonian history that fits in any introduction to solving quadratic equations.

And all that is in the first twelve minutes... you still have 33 minutes of mystery left, and if you teach stats, Colva comes back to talk about De Moivre creating the Normal curve..

In the promotion on the BBC site they remind us that, "In his book The Mathematician's Apology (1941), the Cambridge mathematician G H Hardy expressed his reverence for pure maths, and celebrated its uselessness in the real world. Yet one of the branches of pure mathematics in which Hardy excelled was number theory, and it was this field which played a major role in the work of his younger colleague, Alan Turing, as he worked first to crack Nazi codes at Bletchley Park and then on one of the first computers."
Listen, share...

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