Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality
Slate has an interview with Edward Frenkel, a mathematician at UC Berkeley who wants to expose the beauty of math, inspire awe at its power, and challenge his colleagues to wield it for good. His new book is Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality.
What is wrong with the way most of us are introduced to math?
The way mathematics is taught is akin to an art class in which students are only taught how to paint a fence and are never shown the paintings of the great masters. When, later on in life, the subject of mathematics comes up, most people wave their hands and say, “Oh no, I don’t want to hear about this, I was so bad at math.” What they are really saying is, “I was bad at painting the fence.”
So what is it really like to be a mathematician?
You don’t discover something beautiful every day. Most of the time, you work on something for weeks or months, only to realize that it doesn’t work. But you never give up, you go back and try to analyze the data that you have, and try to see the analogies and connections to try to come up with a new hypothesis. Then you try to test that.
Do people really need to know about these formulas if they aren’t mathematicians?
We have to realize the power of mathematics. By now it’s well-understood that the global economic crisis was caused, in part, by misuse of mathematical models. People who understood those models were actually sounding the alarm. It was the executives who had the power, who were the decision-makers, who did not understand how these formulas functioned. Their logic was: “Well, while these things work, we’re making profits.”
Read the full interview →