Friday, February 13, 2004

Pointless Maths

It being the day where we celebrate the commercialisation of love tomorrow, it was hardly surprising to see an item on the news this morning about some scientists who've come up with a mathematical formula for the perfect marriage that, they claim is 94% accurate.

Now, I'm not going to say anything about how this could possibly work or why, assuming it does, anyone would want to test their relationship against this formula to see whether or not they should get married. No, I'll leave that for people who actually care about answering those questions.

What annoyed me about the report was the liberal use of the word 'mathematical' throughout. Every few seconds it popped up again and every time it did so it trivialised the subject even more. Periodically
another one of these 'useful' formulae appears. We've had one for dunking biscuits in a cup of tea, flipping pancakes and even how to have the perfect family Christmas.

The more of them there are, the more people see the subject of maths as connected with trivial concerns. Maths has never been a popular area of academia, despite the fact that it can be one of the most useful and I can't see reports like this helping in anyway.

The public needs to see how useful mathematics can be, not how it can be applied to unimportant, meaningless things. Only that way can interest in it be raised.

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