# Mathematics

THE PARADOX OF PROOF

by Carolyn ChenOn August 31, 2012, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki posted four papers on the Internet.

The titles were inscrutable. The volume was daunting: 512 pages in total. The claim was audacious: he said he had proved the ABC Conjecture, a famed, beguilingly simple number theory problem that had stumped mathematicians for decades.

Then Mochizuki walked away. He did not send his work to the Annals of Mathematics. Nor did he leave a message on any of the online forums frequented by mathematicians around the world. He just posted the papers, and waited.

…

Below are the title and abstract for my presentation at the STEAM Factory Saturday, April 27, in Columbus Ohio (400 Rich Street).

Title: Processing Art

**Abstract:** We present an interactive art installation and offer a description of how it is constructed. A rapidly changing sequence of images is generated by via a computer program using mathematical principles — scaling, randomness, superposition of periodic waves, dynamics on a torus. These buzzwords and principles aside, the spectator-participant can interact with the program by tuning the color scheme and changing the letters and shapes generated. (If you like an image, we can save it and email it to you.) Code at github.

Acronym decode: STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, **Art**, and Mathematics

Below is a letter (not published) that I submitted to the Wall Street Journal in response to EO Wilson’s op ed piece in the April 5, 2013 edition.

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April 9, 2013

Dear Editors:

I read with interest the article by E.O. Wilson, a distinguished

scientist whose work I greatly admire. Wilson addresses a problem that

concerns us all: the declining interest of young people in science.

I agree with much in Wilson’s article, e.g., that ideas play a key role,

that disciplined fantasies are the fountainhead of creativity. This

said, I take issue with the implication that mathematical semiliteracy

is an adequate preparation for a young person interested in science. What

is sufficient in one generation may not be in the next. Consider two

fundamental advances in physics: Faraday’s law of induction, which made

possible the electric generator, and Maxwell’s discovery that

electromagnetic waves propagate in a vacuum at the speed of light,

which made possible radio communication. Just thirty years apart, one

discovery was made without mathematics, while the other used the most

sophisticated mathematics of the day — and it did come from “staring at

the equations.”

One sees the same progression in biology. In the days of Linnaeus and

Darwin, mathematics played no role. But now whole fields of biology have

been created using mathematics. It is one thing to cut chromosomes into

pieces with enzymes. It is another to assemble the pieces into a map, a

dictionary of life. That was done with a sophisticated piece of

mathematics, the Smith-Waterman algorithm. Mathematics also plays a key

role in reconstructing the tree of life: when and how did species branch

off from their ancestors? Darwin would be pleased!

Back to Wilson’s concern — no student should be deterred from a

career in science by mathematics — but that same student should know

enough mathematics to collaborate fruitfully and to be conversant with

ideas his colleagues will use: statistical argument, model, simulation,

algorithm, etc. Better to enter the game with a full deck.

Sincerely,

James Carlson

Professor Emeritus

University of Utah

Image made by Dylan Carlson using Python’s turtle graphics. This image is made up entirely of copies of a large rectangle rotated around one corner. Click on image to see higher resolution version.

zipTimer: an iPod/iPhone app for pacing piano practice, cooking, workouts, you name it.