To most people, math is something they learned in the days gone by.
I suppose children like math, especially the smart ones. Then the math puzzles become more puzzling, the math problems become more problematic. Struggling on, the flood of math formula is overflowing, any initial interest in math is washed away. When calculations turn into calculus, most will surrender. By the time we can exit from the education system, we are glad to say goodbye to math.
Life goes on. We don’t need calculus to find a job. There’s no formula to remember in daily matters. The tax calculations may pose a challenge, but now you’ve got a calculator. Most likely you’ve picked up a Rubik’s Cube, then put it down. In spare time you may enjoy a game of Sudoku. Isn’t life wonderful?
The world also moves on. Space travel requires complex calculations, but how to squeeze a computer, which can occupy a very big room in the 60s, into tiny spacecrafts? How to get pictures without films? How to communicate with a tiny robot millions of miles away with a dying battery? These are some of the challenges to scientists, and the solutions, by applying a lot of math, give birth to the current technology of laptops, digital cameras, image formats like JPEG, error-correction codes and the wireless communication network. Isn’t math wonderful?
To revive your childhood interest in math, physics and astronomy, you may like this recent (October 2010) Einstein Public Lecture by Terence Tao.
He described the lecture in his blog: The Cosmic Distance Ladder (version 4.1). There you can download the lecture in PDF or PPT, even his earlier versions. If your internet connection can handle the bandwidth, you can watch this lecture video. Being a public lecture, detailed calculations are omitted. If you need to see them there is a link from his earlier lecture in 2007.
Terence Tao (陶哲軒) has won many honors and awards, including a Fields Medal in 2006 – the math Nobel prize.
If you’d like to take a look at his current research (in math), click “Home” in his blog.
I did that, but didn’t get anything into my head. But then I sit back, and think, “What a nice idea, a blog talking about your own research.” When I start my research, I immediately sign up for WordPress.