Mathematics: The science of patterns

I just started reading the book Mathematics : The Science of Patterns by Keith Devlin. I'm planning on writing a review of it for my site. I can already tell it's a good book, and I've just read the prologue, titled "What is mathematics?"

The author says that yes, mathematics WAS the study of number - up till about 500 B.C. Then it became the study of number and shape. After invention of calculus, it became the study of number, shape, motion, change and space.

But nowadays you can't say that any more, because the field of mathematics has expanded SO much: in 1900 it would have taken about eighty books to write all the world's mathematical knowledge. Devlin estimates that nowadays (or when he wrote the book about 10 years ago) it would take maybe 100,000 volumes to contain all knonw mathematics!

You know, your average person doesn't realize that. I got a glimpse of it while in university, when I saw all these lists of subcategories of mathematics, and when I studied a little bit of something like Abstract Algebra or Complex Analysis or Measure Theory - and all we did was touch the surface of such topics.

And so today, mathematics is often defined as the study of patterns - numerical patterns, patterns of shape, patterns of motion, and so on.

Devlin also touched on beauty in mathematics in his prologue - and I agree: mathematics is beautiful. That, too, I fear, most folks don't realize or understand. It's because you need to be able to understand the math first - then it kind of forms a picture in your mind of a structure that is beautiful, harmonious. I can't explain it.

So I want to recommend the book Mathematics : The Science of Patterns for all of you even before I've written complete review on it. It's written for a layman, and is about the essential history of mathematics.



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