The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

About (gloss as “concerning”, not “in the vicinity of”)

My claim staked, I suppose I should send up a few shotgun blasts to mark my presence.

My first motivation in getting (back) into the weblog game is self-promotion. I know that isn’t the most original, but I’m trying to get a program off the ground here, and this might help get more people to hear about it.

My second reason is to have a soapbox. Admittedly there aren’t as many news stories that set my blood boiling directly on-point with mathematics as there are in astronomy or biology, but there are some out there. If I throw in all the misused statistics, errantly-drawn conclusions, and cargo cult science, well I’m sure I can come up with a good rant once a week or so. Actually, I’ll set that as a goal.

Which brings me to my third point. I’ll admit to a certain self-congratulation on being a member of the rarefied priesthood of professional research mathematicians, but it fades quickly. The uncomfortable silence that follows telling someone you work in math is a direct result of the fact that we’re generally content to talk amongst ourselves and leave the public at large behind. Yes, there are benefits to teaching basic math and reasoning skills, but there is a supremely beautiful world we end up keeping to ourselves — one that can match all the wonders of, say, astronomy, though without the cool pictures.

The fact is, anyone can understand the basic ideas in even current mathematics, and I try to always keep track of how I can tell an interested outsider about them. Here in this forum I hope to aim the discussions at just such an interested outsider. Mathematics is not for just the few who devote their lives to it, but for everyone. It need not be talked around in casual conversation to avoid making non-mathematicians uneasy. It need not be apologized for.

Rather than try to start from the ground up, I’ll jump into the thick of things and backtrack to explain what I need later. If I say something you don’t understand and want more information about, let me know and I’ll likely be glad to explain. Eventually I should have a decent store of material to refer to when I need it in later posts. Accordingly, the style will probably fall a bit closer to James Joyce than to Nicolas Bourbaki.

So, all that said, welcome to the Unapologetic Mathematician.

January 15, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments