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On Computing and Communing

Mathematics, with its cold, callous figures and dull, dreary calculations, has
always been a subject students find hard to appreciate. Often, they feel alienated
from its seemingly mechanical nature and taxing, repetitive worksheets.
Unbeknownst to them, though, is the role math plays beyond trivial classroom
examples. Unbeknownst to them is the fact that mathematics is more than
quantifying objects and crunching numbers; it is the very language of the universe
itself.
From counting apples in a basket to explaining how heavenly bodies orbit one
another, mathematicsthe study of numbers, patterns, and changedeals with
everything from the mundane to the sublime. It is the bedrock of all science, of
humanitys endeavor to make sense of the world. Friedrich Gauss, a German
mathematician, asserts that it is the Queen of the Sciences who condescends to
render service to other natural sciences (qtd. in Waltershausen 79).
Without a doubt, math provides the tools necessary for data collection and
quantitative analysis upon which the scientific method rests on. Economists use
mathematical models to predict trends in the market, biologists use similar methods
to compute a populations growth, and physicists apply various formulae to calculate
for force, impulse, energy, and the like.
The scope of mathematics does not simply end at serving other sciences,
though. Math is applied in fields such as business, engineering, and architecture.
Determining the pricing of products, the integrity of a structure, and even the
aesthetics of a building all require a solid understanding of mathematical concepts.
Artists and musicians also use math in their works, albeit, most of the time,
unknowingly. Balance, symmetry, and proportion are ideas shared by art and math
alike while ratios in frequencies is observed in the division of notes in the musical
scales across different cultures. In Starry Night, turbulence, a type of fluid flow that
remains nebulous to both math and physics, is captured in the impressionist swirls of
Van Goghs stars (St. Clair, Unexpected Math). On the other hand, in Leonardo da
Vincis Vitruvian Man and Mozarts Sonata n. 1 in C Major the golden ratio is found.

Even nature is a mathematician. Bees optimize the space in their hives by


making hexagonal honeycombs as flowers follow the Fibonacci sequence to
maximize their number of petals. Similarly, pine cones and sunflowers make use of
the golden angle, derived from the golden ratio, as a way of fitting in as much rows of
seeds as possible.
Math can also be seen in the locomotion of animals. The rhythm of a horse
galloping on a racetrack, the agile motions of a sidewinder traversing the dessert,
and the pulsating bell of a jellyfish floating in the sea are all examples of natures
fine-tuned locomotive processes. Each muscle works in synchronicity, following a
distinct, innate mathematical pattern that allow these animals to thrive in their
environments. Likewise, a sense of time and, consequently, of math dictate the
internal rhythm and metabolic processes of all living beings.
Furthermore, math can be seen in natures fractals, patterns that never end
but, instead, repeat in smaller and smaller iterations. Snowflakes exhibit fractals as
each arm of ice crystals contain numerous more arms that contain even more.
Clouds, too, are fractal in design with each spiral wisp giving rise to more wisps.
Even the physical laws that govern nature are grounded in math. The speed
limit of light, the transfer of heat, and the interaction of forces are just some of the
many unbreakable principles of the universe that can be simplified into elegant
mathematical formulae. The properties of elementary particles themselves, the
fundamental building blocks of creation, can all be reduced to the values of their
charge and spin. This has led some to hypothesize that reality is purely
mathematical (Tegmark).
Math, having given man the ability to generalize universal truths, has also
allowed him to peer into the future. With probability, statistics, game theory, and
mathematical modeling, humanity has the power to foretell the outcome of an event
by finding patterns in mathematical data. Thus, to read numbers is to read the
hereafter. This has extraordinary implications in decision-making: now, with math,
man can anticipate a mistake before he makes it.
The universe speaks mathematics. It tells its secrets through the rhythms and
patterns of creation. No matter what field, no matter what specialization, man uses
math, not to merely compute, but to commune with the totality of the natural world.

Works Cited
Tegmark, Max. Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature
of Reality. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Print.
The Unexpected Math behind Van Gogh's "Starry Night" - Natalya St. Clair.
By Natalya St. Clair. YouTube. TED-Ed, 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 3 Feb. 2016.
Stewart, Ian. Nature's Numbers: The Unreal Reality of Mathematical
Imagination. New York: Basic, 1995. Print.
Waltershausen, Wolfgang Sartorious von. Gauss zum Gedchtniss. Leipzig:
Verlag Von S. Herzel, 1856. Print.

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