Archive for March 4th, 2008

What’s Maths for then?

March 4, 2008

Here’s something new from this morning’s Metro but for whatever reason, it’s not on the website.

I’ve been thinking about the significance of mathematics recently, what with Brian Micklethwait’s writings on the subject of teaching.

Professor Darren Crowdy, of Imperial College London, has apparently “fixed” a flaw in the Schwarz-Christoffel formula, which as the Daily Telegraph helpfully explains:

was independently discovered by two mathematicians in the1860s to enable them to translate the unusual and angular shapes of the real world, whether brains or aircraft wings, into a simpler circular shape so that they are much easier to model and analyse.

It sounds like a perfect answer to two questions I imagine Brian hears: “What’s Maths for then?” and “Haven’t they worked it all out yet?”

The whole story has a very Arthur Conan Doyle feel to it, I think:

“Its importance can hardly be exaggerated. It has been the most jealously guarded of all government secrets. You may take it from me that naval warfare becomes impossible withing the radius of a Bruce-Partington’s operation.”

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