Is math a science or a language

Mathematics, an international language

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The task of mathematics is a topic of international dimension. In fact, a mathematician understands mathematical propositions and problems in the same way across language barriers. Solutions that are almost identical to open problems often come from very far apart regions of the world at the same time. A mathematician can often understand publications in a wide variety of languages ​​without having mastered the corresponding languages. The formula language and symbolism of mathematics is internationally understandable.

Therefore every mathematician must have access to most of the publications appearing all over the world so that he can incorporate the new results into his research. The public is often somewhat ignorant of the assertion that new results and new theorems are constantly being proven in mathematics. In fact, mathematical knowledge, like that of the rest of the natural sciences, has exploded over the past 100 years. One can count that in 1995 about 50,000 mathematical publications with about 100,000 new sentences appeared. The problems that have not yet been resolved and the new findings are difficult to convey to the general public, as you usually need a 10-semester course to acquire the terms and basics for understanding the problems. I have to do without it at this point. Whether the new sentences will then find their application in a deeper understanding of the internal mathematical relationships or in new calculations in technology will often only become clear a long time after they have been found. The deep sentences of the Hungarian mathematician Radon became, for example, the basis of computed tomography around 50 years later.

In no other country on earth is it as chic as it is here to claim that one has never understood anything about mathematics (a late Goethean legacy). In my eyes, it's just like calling yourself illiterate and being proud of it. In American there are the two terms illiterate and innumerate, ignorant of reading and ignorant of arithmetic. It is certainly not given to everyone to write poems like Goethe, not even to fully understand them in their depth, in their feelings and their meaning - so it is also not possible for everyone to use the simple calculation rules (as they tell us from the well-known medieval arithmetic master Adam Ries) to understand complicated mathematically formulated laws of his environment or even to apply them in practice.

Even if one thinks in public that a quote from Böll is part of education - a formula like Ohm's law or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is often dismissed as superfluous or at least incomprehensible. In our culture today, striving for both literature and an understanding of the mathematical laws that govern our world must be a matter of education, yes, of general education. Even the Greek philosophers were of the opinion that mathematics is the queen of the sciences, ahead of philosophy and other sciences.

Wed Nov 20 16:14:16 MET 1996