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Excitements and Applications of Mathematics 03 April, 2013

Prof. A. Vijayakumar, Department of Mathematics, Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Kerala lead the weekly discussion on 3rd April 2013 with his talk on “Excitements and Applications of Mathematics”.

He started the talk with a mention of David Gross, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2004 who said “If a country neglects basic research, it is doomed to be always a follower and lot a leader and it will lose its most talented young scientists who will go elsewhere"

Common man and Mathematics

Mathematics can tell us many things about the world around us – where we are, when we came here and where we are going. A range of topics from climate studies, financial markets, cancer detection, analysis of war, social networks and the intricacies of the internet can be explained using mathematics.

Field’s medal

However, there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics. Alfred Nobel inferred in early 1900s that there are no applications for Mathematics. However, the present day might force him to think otherwise. Field’s medal is an equivalent of Nobel Prize for mathematics and it is awarded to bright mathematics researchers under the age of 40.

Srinivasa Ramanujan, noted Indian Mathematician has a lot of books written about him. One of the most interesting observations by Ramanujan was that the expression for number of partitions of an integer would include root of 2, pi, differential equations, trigonometric functions and imaginary numbers.

Applications of Math

"Mathematics unlimited - 2001 and Beyond" is a good book on mathematics applications. Research director of Titanic movie explains how integrations were used to shoot the movie in this book. There is also a chapter on Computational Neuroscience which postulates that more Mathematics is needed to understand human brain. The book also talks about the math of financial markets; how do you predict stock markets using mathematics and about Computer aided Geometric Design where the readers are made to explore what is common to Mercedes Benz design and 1000 year old piece of pottery.

Interesting Math Problems

Prof. Vijayakumar talked about quite a few interesting problems in mathematics that has kept scientists around the world engaged for years together. Some of them include “How does Google Google?”, Chessboard Problem, Tower of Brahma, Four Colour problem of marking maps, Shoelace problem, 786 (Numerical equivalent of "Bismillahil Rahmanil Rahim") etc.

He also introduced the concept of Non Euclidean Geometry, which challenges many theories of conventional geometry, Mersenne Primes, fractals and so on.

The audience took home a lot of possibilities and wonders of mathematics after the talk.