Several universities, including Columbia, offer a course called "Physics for Poets," which serves as an introduction to hard science topics for students who aren't so handy with numbers. There are plenty of people out there who are fascinated by different phenomena that happen in the physical world, but who never quite cottoned to mathematics (beyond, say, algebra).For those who think a second pass would help it sink in, I refer you to Steven Strogatz, a Cornell applied mathematician, who is attempting to teach the sum total of mathematics over the next several weeks on The New York Times website. It's not exactly "math for poets"-more like "math for adults."The first lesson went up this weekend and is an introduction to the concept of numbers: "what they are and why we need them." Strogatz relies on an clip from Sesame Street that straddles the line between cute and elegant. From there, however, the discussion gets somewhat heavy and takes a bit of a "math for philosophers" tone.
[Numbers] apparently exist in some sort of Platonic realm, a level above reality. In that respect they are more like other lofty concepts (e.g., truth and justice), and less like the ordinary objects of daily life. Upon further reflection, their philosophical status becomes even murkier. Where exactly do numbers come from? Did humanity invent them? Or discover them?
I always liked math and, at one point, many years ago, was pretty good at it. But I've never thought about numbers in this manner. Looks like there will be something for everyone in this ongoing discussion.via LifehackerPhoto (cc) by Flickr user d3 Dan.
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