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Monday, August 24, 2015

In the push for marketable skills, are we forgetting the beauty and poetry of STEM disciplines?

Photo: Paul Myers
"Thousands of students are preparing to begin their job searches with newly earned STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees in hand, eagerly waiting to use the logical, analytical and practical skills they’ve acquired." reports Paul Myers, Chair of Computer Science at Trinity University.
 
There is beauty in mathematical ideas and proofs. 
Photo: The Conversation US

However, as qualified as they might be, they could be missing one critical component of the STEM field – art.

I pursued an education and career in computer science and mathematics. And I know only too well that in the field of computer science, there is often an emphasis on elegance and beauty alongside sheer practicality. Indeed, programming itself is sometimes referred to as an art.

It is the same in related fields. The discipline of mathematics has long championed beauty as an important quality of ideas and proofs. And, of course, many engineers value elegance and beauty as important components in their designs and solutions...

Mathematical beauty around us 
Similarly, ideas of beauty and poetry have always been important in mathematics.

Prominent mathematicians and computer scientists have long embraced elegance, beauty, poetry and literacy in the code that they write and the theorems that they prove.

These ideas, in fact, have been around for millennia. Indeed, the extreme separation of the disciplines is relatively new in Western history.

Those doing science (natural philosophy) and mathematics were also often doing poetry and music. Many of today’s disciplines were subsumed as philosophy. So contemporary surprise at the idea that science and mathematics could be poetic is a somewhat recent phenomenon.

For example, Pythagoras was a philosopher/scientist/mystic/mathematician who explored beauty in art and music.

This attention to beauty and pattern continued through Fibonacci and beyond.

Fibonacci (13th century), considered to be the leading mathematician in the Middle Ages, is probably best known for the Fibonacci Sequence named after him: a number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers (eg, start with 1, 2; then add to get 3. Then add 2, 3 to get 5, and it goes on: 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,…). Fibonacci discovered that much else that we regard as beautiful follows this elegant 
pattern.

This technical, mathematical beauty is evident in all of nature – from flower petals and shells to spiral galaxies and hurricanes.
Read more... 

Source: The Conversation US


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