What if at school you had to take an 'art class' in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso? Would that make you appreciate art? Would you want to learn more about it? I doubt it..........but this is how math is taught and so in the eyes of most of us it becomes the equivalent of watching paint dry. While the paintings of the great masters are readily available, the math of the great masters is locked away.
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APAEdward Frenkel Quotes. (n.d.). Jar of Quotes. Retrieved , from JarofQuotes.com Web site: https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=what-if-at-school-you-had-to-take-art-class-in-which-you-were-only-taught-how-to-paint-fence-what-if-you-were-never-shown-paintings-leonardo-da-edward-frenkel
ChicagoEdward Frenkel Quotes. Jar of Quotes, 2019. https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=what-if-at-school-you-had-to-take-art-class-in-which-you-were-only-taught-how-to-paint-fence-what-if-you-were-never-shown-paintings-leonardo-da-edward-frenkel, accessed .
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Mathematical knowledge is unlike any other knowledge. While our perception of the physical world can always be distorted, our perception of mathematical truths can't be. They are objective, persistent, necessary truths. A mathematical formula or theorem means the same thing to anyone anywhere - no matter what gender, religion, or skin color; it will mean the same thing to anyone a thousand years from now. And what's also amazing is that we own all of them. No one can patent a mathematical formula, it's ours to share. There is nothing in this world that is so deep and exquisite and yet so readily available to all. That such a reservoir of knowledge really exists is nearly unbelievable. It's too precious to be given away to the 'initiated few.' It belongs to all of us.
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That's because, if correct, a mathematical formula expresses an eternal truth about the universe. Hence no one can claim ownership of it; it is ours to share. Rich or poor, black or white, young or old - no one can take these formulas away from us. Nothing in this world is so profound and elegant, and yet so available to all.
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More often than not, at the end of the day (or a month, or a year), you realize that your initial idea was wrong, and you have to try something else. These are the moments of frustration and despair. You feel that you have wasted an enormous amount of time, with nothing to show for it. This is hard to stomach. But you can never give up. You go back to the drawing board, you analyze more data, you learn from your previous mistakes, you try to come up with a better idea. And every once in a while, suddenly, your idea starts to work. It's as if you had spent a fruitless day surfing, when you finally catch a wave: you try to hold on to it and ride it for as long as possible. At moments like this, you have to free your imagination and let the wave take you as far as it can. Even if the idea sounds totally crazy at first.
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What if at school you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to pain a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso? Would that make you appreciate art? Would you want to learn more about it? I doubt it... Of course this sounds ridiculous, but this is how math is taught.
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How to describe the excitement I felt when I saw this beautiful work and realized its potential? I guess it's like when, after a long journey, suddenly a mountain peak comes in full view. You catch your breath, take in its majestic beauty, and all you can say is "Wow!" It's the moment of revelation. You have not yet reached the summit, you don't even know yet what obstacles lie ahead, but its allure is irresistible, and you already imagine yourself at the top. It's yours to conquer now. But do you have the strength and stamina to do it?
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The interaction between math and physics is a two-way process, with each of the two subjects drawing from and inspiring the other. At different times, one of them may take the lead in developing a particular idea, only to yield to the other subject as focus shifts. But altogether, the two interact in a virtuous circle of mutual influence.
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Michael Harris opens the doors and gently guides you into a magic world. Once inside, you can't help but feel mesmerized, eager to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. And no wonder: a major thinker of our time is talking to you about math and so much more, like you've never heard before.
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