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Rated: E · Essay · Educational · #2306203
Last of six items of advice to my grandson on his graduation from high school.
Love Mathematics

Math Illustration

“Mathematics and music are God’s languages. When you speak them, you are speaking directly to God.”
-- Rebecca Goldstein, novelist               

         The beauty of mathematics became clear to me late in life — just recently, as a matter of fact. When that happened, I was angry; I felt cheated. Of all the failures in education, this was the greatest. My education was in engineering, so I had a lot of math. I learned the theorems and manipulated the equations; I did derivatives and integrals; I applied my knowledge to structures, thermodynamics, and electric circuits. But I had a difficult time with math; so no love was lost, and I was glad to be rid of the subject. For me, mathematics was a necessary tool; a challenging tool that I never totally mastered. There was always a little dread, never any awe. I never saw the big picture. I never thought about the majesty of the perfect ‘hand in glove’ fit between mathematics and natural science. The answer to a scientific problem always comes in mathematical terms. Sometimes the scientist looks around and finds the mathematician got there first. A perfect fit? Of course, it’s a perfect fit! One universe created by God’s mind couldn’t be anything but a perfect fit. Not a miracle — just God. The miracle is that He gave us the mind to comprehend it. We learn mathematics as a subject, science as a subject, and religion as a subject, completely missing the truth that they are all one.
         Math is taught in a mechanical ‘how to’ way. I never learned any of the history of mathematics or biographies of the great mathematical minds of human civilization. I was over 70 years old when I read that Galileo spent the last years of his life under house arrest by the church for teaching that the sun is the center of the solar system and that Edmond Halley (of Halley’s comet fame) financed the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia because Newton was broke. These men had real lives filled with political and financial struggles. But the common thread was that they were all trying to understand God.
         My appreciation for mathematics took a giant leap forward the day I stood before the TV and watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon’s surface. Years later, when your dad and I were doing experiments in Fractal Geometry for his high school science fair project, I began to see the beauty in mathematics. That was when the awe struck. By then, the personal computer was available, and mathematics was transitioning from theoretical to experimental science. I invite you to pick up a book on Fractals and enjoy the beautiful images.
         Reading about Fractals, I learned the concept of the “Fractal Dimension.” (I’ll let you look that up for yourself.) And that the pictures of the sound waves of the world’s best-loved music have the same fractal dimension as the printout of the electric waves of the human brain. What a revelation that was to me. Does that explain why we love music? Another piece of the perfect fit?
         Recently I saw a poster showing Euler’s Identity with the caption “the most beautiful equation.” That caught my attention, took some time to sink in, and sparked a reading adventure. Three basic arithmetic operations occur exactly once each (addition, multiplication, exponentiation). It links five fundamental mathematical constants: 0, 1, π, e, i. You can’t plot it; there are no variables. It just exists — so simple yet so profound.
Euler Equation for Math Writeup
“… like a Shakespearean sonnet that captures the very essence of love, or a painting that brings out the beauty of the human form, Euler’s equation reaches into the very depths of existence.”
-- Keith Devlin, Stanford University      

         Learning mathematics is playing in God’s workshop.

The series:
         "Read Voraciously
         "Listen Intently
         "Write Well
         "Speak Well - Public Speaking
         "Speak Well - Conversation
          “Love Mathematics”


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