It’s not everyday when you hear the words “math” and “sexy” used in the same sentence, but that’s exactly what Fields medalist Cedric Villani is suggesting – that mathematics is the universal gateway into a mixed world of randomness and reason. Villani speaks of a world that is made vibrant by math, with math as the hidden gears that drive our everyday world, the not-so-secret language that makes our cars, our computers, our phones, and even our daily commute work. It is the structure that breathes life into broader sciences like physics and biology and chemistry, with infinite applications. And the applications, it seems, truly are endless.
As Villani says in his talk, there is wealth in mathematics. Ask Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who uses predictive math to take random information and uses it to power his search engines, giving us the most relevant links for our searches. Ask the mathematicians who are behind our giant infrastructures or ask the analysts who use math to find the top talents for hiring companies. Entire companies are built and thrive on the foundation of mathematical equations, working behind the scenes though we see and feel its presence without even knowing it.
Almost everything that we can see in the physical work can be broken down into pieces or built into something larger through math. When we see numbers, Villani sees structure and potential and life. As we see the world through Villani’s eyes, through a mathematician’s eyes, we also discover how we are constantly surrounded by math and just how much we owe those who dedicate their lives to understanding and applying mathematics. Through Villani, we also get a peek at the interesting but also perplexing life of a mathematician and how discoveries are sometimes made in the most commonplace of settings.
To Our Students:
With a little perspective from Villani, you can learn to have this whole intricate, invisible, but completely tangible world of math become yours. Think about fun but meaningful ways that you can apply math in your life this summer or how you can learn more about mathematics beyond the classroom. Start a project that can help you learn the math of gaming or the math behind beautiful photography and the golden ratio. Learn to keep your eyes open and appreciate that math is all around you, an invisible engine with endless possibilities, all with a little help from Fields medal winner Cedric Villani.