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On the Importance of Useless Mathematics

  • António Machiavelo

Abstract

It is very difficult to convey the purpose of large and important pieces of mathematics to the general public. Even college students of mathematics frequently ask, in an exasperating way: “What is this useful for?” In this short essay it is argued that in order to appropriately answer this question, one must first dispel some common-sense notions that just happen to be wrong. Fundamentally, one has to confront, head on, the question of what mathematics really is and exactly what things it deals with, which can only be satisfactorily understood within an evolutionary perspective.

Keywords

Natural Selection Mathematical Object Nobel Laureate Wrong Idea Mathematical Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was partially supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) through Centro de Matemática da Universidade do Porto. Substantial parts of this paper were adapted from an article by the author, [30], published in Portuguese.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Matemática da Universidade do PortoPortoPortugal

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