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Describing Nature With Math

Viết bởi: Peter Tyson, 20 04 2020
If you're like me, you understand readily how one can describe nature's wonders using poetry or music, painting or photography. Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" richly depict their natural subjects, as do Monet's water lilies and Ansel Adams' photos of Yosemite. But mathematics? How can you describe a tree or cloud, a rippled pond or swirling galaxy using numbers and equations?

Extremely well, as Einstein knew better than most, of course. In fact, most scientists would agree that, when it comes to teasing out the inherent secrets of the universe, nothing visual, verbal, or aural comes close to matching the accuracy and economy, the power and elegance, and the inescapable truth of the mathematical.

How is this so? Well, for the math-challenged, for that person who has avoided anything but the most basic arithmetic since high school, who feels a pit in his stomach when he sees an equation—that is, for myself—I will attempt to explain, with the help of some who do mathematics for a living. If you're math-phobic, too, I think you'll get a painless feel for why even that master of describing nature with words, Thoreau, would hold that "the most distinct and beautiful statements of any truth must take at last the mathematical form."

"With a few symbols on a page, you can describe a wealth of physical phenomena."

"Mathematics captures patterns that the universe finds pleasant, if you like."

"Einstein used mathematics to see a piece of the universe that no one had ever seen before."

Read more here.

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