## Math AnxietyNovember 21, 2016 My training as a physical scientist included a lot of mathematics, the apotheosis of which was a course in continuum mechanics, all of which I have long forgotten since I never had a practical use for it. While I did well in mathematics (see figure), I never really liked mathematics until the advent of experimental mathematics. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool experimentalist.
Philosophy is written in this grand book - I mean the universe - which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering around in a dark labyrinth.[3] La filosofia è scritta in questo grandissimo libro che continuamente ci sta aperto innanzi a gli occhi (io dico l'universo), ma non si può intendere se prima non s'impara a intender la lingua, e conoscer i caratteri, ne' quali è scritto. Egli è scritto in lingua matematica, e i caratteri son triangoli, cerchi, ed altre figure geometriche, senza i quali mezi è impossibile a intenderne umanamente parola; senza questi è un aggirarsi vanamente per un oscuro laberinto.[4]
"Physicists need to think more carefully about how they present the mathematical details of their work, to explain the theory in a way that their colleagues can quickly understand. It takes time to scrutinize the details of a technical article--even for the most distinguished physics professors--so with many competing demands on their time scientists may be choosing to skip over articles that take too much effort to digest."[11] ## References:- E.P. Wigner, "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences," Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, no. 1 (February, 1960). pp. 1-14. A PDF file is available here.
- Galileo Galilei, "Il_Saggiatore."
- Nature is "written in the language of mathematics," Galileo Galilei, The Assayer, English text.
- Nature is "written in the language of mathematics," Galileo Galilei, Il Saggiatore, Italian text.
- Scientists struggle with mathematical details, Bristol University Press Release, June 25, 2012.
- Tim W. Fawcett and Andrew D. Higginson, "Heavy use of equations impedes communication among biologists," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol.109, no. 29 (July 17, 2012), pp. 11735-11739, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1205259109.
- Onur Gün and Atilla Yilmaz, "The stochastic encounter-mating model," arXiv, November 4, 2016.
- Jonathan E. Kollmer, Thorsten Pöschel1, and Jason A. C. Gallas, "Are physicists afraid of mathematics?" New Journal of Physics, Volume 17 (January, 2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1367-2630/17/1/013036. This is an open access publication with a PDF file available here.
- Andrew D. Higginson and Tim W. Fawcett, "Comment on 'Are physicists afraid of mathematics?'," New Journal of Physics, vol. 18 (November, 2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1367-2630/18/11/118003. This is an open access publication with a PDF file available here.
- A. D. Higginson and T. W. Fawcett, "Statistical Analysis of the Effect of Equations on Citations," zenodo.org (PDF File).
- Even physicists are 'afraid' of mathematics, University of Exeter Press Release, November 11, 2016.
Linked Keywords: Physical science; physical scientist; mathematics; apotheosis; course; continuum mechanics; experimental mathematics; dyed-in-the-wool; experimentalist; science; academic publishing; paper; Nobel Prize in Physics; Physics Nobelist; Eugene Wigner; equation; Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC); statistical sample; weaker sex; lesser sex; teeth; physicist; analysis; experiment; The Assayer (Il Saggiatore); natural philosophy; universe; language; triangle; circle; polyhedron; geometrical figure; labyrinth; Galileo Galilei (1564-1642); sketch; Ottavio Leoni (1578–1630); gravitational acceleration; Two New Sciences - The law of falling bodies; rolling balls down inclined planes; speed of light; Wikimedia Commons; discipline; physics; physics envy; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Tim Fawcett; Andrew Higginson; School of Biological Sciences; University of Bristol (Bristol, UK); biology; equation; cartoon; Randall Munroe; xkcd Comics; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License; xkcd comic 435; number density; dense; scientific literature; paper; A Brief History of Time; citation; appendix; equation; random; biological sciences; population dynamics; statistics; statistical; rebut; physicists; biologists; Physical Review Letters; extensible markup language (XML); publishing; publisher; American Physical Society; coauthors; average; floating block; figure; thesis statement; dataset; hypothesis; speculate; speculation; dialogue; theory; exposition; colleagues; professor; E.P. Wigner, "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences," Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, no. 1 (February, 1960). pp. 1-14; Galileo Galilei, "Il Saggiatore." |
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