“A journey of a thousand miles commenced with a single step.”

Tao Te Ching, Lao Zi

Yosemite National Park, California (Shutterstock)

A Mathematician’s Apology


G. H. Hardy published A Mathematician’s Apology in 1940. (Wikipedia)

Our universe is an ancient requiem of silky blue galaxies. It was here millenniums ago, and will stay for millenniums to come, making our existence fleeting and negligible. Human beings have been gazing into this unfathomable abyss since prehistoric times, yet are still clueless in answering most of the questions our ancestors posed. We cannot predict where time distorts, nor can we sense a higher dimensional space, or tell if someone is watching us from somewhere far above. After all, there is practically no way to determine our own history and destiny, and therefore the basic philosophical nonsense remains. It seems that the more we know, the more questions we will raise, and the cycle goes on and on.

It is then that we take refuge in mathematics, omnipotent principles deemed to be eternally valid. It does seem unbelievable, however, that theory of numbers help explain the most profound of astrophysics, and the laws of thermodynamics perfectly model our chaotic society. In this sense, the unknown worlds deep in the universe could be familiar, yet our well-studied surroundings could once again fall into obscurity – we are so frequently lured by an intangible mirage.

The mission of mathematicians is sacred. We strive to grasp every aspect of every problem, and detect the underlying patterns across disciplines: transmission of light and movement of ants are both dictated by brachistochrone curves; gravitational and electric fields are unified in their inverse square relationships; and movement of waves and diffusion of heat and many more are all studied with Fourier transform. Inapplicable theorems discovered centuries ago are being vastly used in this age of big data; and mathematical advances today possess implications far beyond our imaginations into the unreachable depth of the universe. This is the meaning of our studies – truth is our only pursuit.

Humans disagree on so many things, yet there is no room for disagreements in mathematics.

(Originally written for Emory Mathematical Modeling Association)

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.

― Albert Einstein, Obituary to Emmy Noether

A Pursuit of Lifetime

“A journey of a thousand miles commenced with a single step.”

Tao Te Ching, Lao Zi