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Mathematics – A Great Curiosity Of Mine

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Maths is clichéd in science, it is the essence of nature, the kernel of global finance, and it is certainly the core of our earthly world. I simply find using equations to notate everything we want to know about enlightening. Art is ever changing and language adaptive, only numbers are exact and everlasting. Its authority both overwhelms and intrigues me; the subject is as refined as it is perplexing. A static universe, the plum pudding model, and absolute time have all yielded to pave the path for the better approximations of our world. But unlike these suppositions, mathematical theorems will not.

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Maths is absolute and science authoritative, yet debates are inherent in their academia. Hippasus’ was drowned at sea for tainting Pythagoras’ seemingly perfect triangle with disunity through his discovery of irrational numbers, allegedly. But, irrationality has been one of my greatest interests. I believed we were close to knowing all of the present and the past, and that with the right understanding, we could grasp the future. Pierre-Simon Laplace had shared this view, but he also admitted that ‘what we are ignorant of is immense’. In the 20th century, the chaos theory has made a fool of my view. But this only intensified my thirst and appreciation for maths. I want to be part of the adventure, pursue of the full knowledge of our physical world. The chaos theory is common in popular science books like Marcus du Sautoy’s ‘What We Cannot Know’, used by John Polkinghorne to defend the existence of God; I’ve loathed it for failing my vision of a calculable world. But Robert May proved its worth, utilising it to model a rabbit population. Similarly bewildering to me is information theory. It declared a cap on communication efficiency yet it had led to more efficient codes aiding statistics, cryptography, and the likes. This appeared paradoxical to me yet I was captivated by the reading. Albeit bringing disharmony to my view of mathematical elegance, I am yearning to start touring the muddled and chaotic side of maths.

Sautoy showed the proof of the impossibility to write the square root of two as a fraction. But whilst I’ve appreciated its simplicity, it would’ve been bizarre to the ancient Greeks. Diophantus once claimed equations with negative solutions to be ‘absurd’. Numbers were geometric and real to them, a line with a negative length is impossible yet negative numbers are a child’s play to the modern world. I want to add to this wealth of knowledge; rigour and challenge have only furthered my passion for maths. Knowing that the incomprehensible of today will soon be the ABCs of tomorrow, from minus one to Rafael Bombelli’s imaginary unit, I want to follow the path of academic growth at the forefront of the academia. Topology is another great curiosity of mine, being introduced by Ian Stewart’s ’17 Equations That Changed The World’. Stewart started on the Euler characteristic; whilst I did find the proof by simplification satisfying, I’ve failed to see its significance. But the findings were fascinating as it had its place in everything, from electromagnetism in how the field lines interact to biology where it can be applied to enzyme interaction with the double helix DNA. Being one of the more bemusing and knotty topics (pun intended) to me, it is also one that I am most excited for.

It was at his home that Newton refined his development of calculus and the laws of gravitation, reshaping the world and setting the stage for modern science, all without formal guidance. So I believe I will benefit immensely from a gap year, allowing me to advance both academically and personally, readying to tackle the cutting edge of mathematical studies. My spare time is well balanced, taking piano lessons to further my love of music and working out to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve participated in the EES and won the most innovative award. I’ve also gained a Gold Crest Award and achieved silver in the Senior UKMT challenge.

29 April 2020

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