Category Archives: mathematics

Arithmetic, intuition, and very large errors

Here in Canada we’ve just had a federal election. As politics often does, it put on display two kinds of people: those whose thinking has led them to have strong opinions, and those whose strong opinions have led them to stop thinking. I saw a stunningly good example of the latter group, and the amusing story carries a message that applies much more broadly. So here goes. Continue reading

Music Mondays: Mandelbrot Set

It’s Music Monday again.

Today: math!

Here’s Jonathan Coulton, with “Mandelbrot Set” – a song about the fractal set of complex numbers we call, eponymously, the Mandelbrot Set. Continue reading

Mathematics (and the rest of science) for human flourishing

I read a lot of books, both technical and not.  Some I struggle through; some I enjoy in a forgettable sort of way; and some grab me and promise to stay with me.  I recently finished Francis Su’s Mathematics for Human Flourishing, and to cut to the chase, you should read this book too.  What’s that? You’re not a mathematician?  Well, neither am I.

Actually, this book is only sort of about mathematics.  First, as Su says in his opening paragraph, Continue reading

Do biology students need calculus?

Image: Integration by parts. Remember?

Nearly every university science student takes 1st-year calculus. The content is fairly standard: functions, limits, derivatives, max/min problems, working up to integration and often capped off by the powerful but counterintuitive trick of integration by parts*. I think 1st-year calculus is widely seen (both by the Math departments that teach it, and the other science programs whose students take it, as the sine qua non of mathematical training for all scientists.

Is it? Continue reading