What is math good for?

This blog is a small attempt on my part to answer this question. Instead of calling the blog “What is math good for”, I call it Purpose Driven Math. This is what I intend to talk about – math that is purpose driven or math that serves a purpose.

It is interesting to point that there are abundant examples of math theory that were “useless” when they were first created or conceived, but later turned out to be purpose driven. Take number theory for example. What use can possibly come from the study of numbers, in particular prime numbers? In fact G. H. Hardy (1877 – 1947), an eminent mathematician who was known for his achievements in number theory famously said that “The theory of Numbers has always been regarded as one of the most obviously useless branches of Pure Mathematics”. Unlike in Hardy’s life time, number theory is now purpose driven math. Every time you go online to shop or send information over the Internet, the RSA algorithm, which is deeply rooted in number theory, is used to encrypt and decrypt the information you send and receive over the Internet. Every time you go online, number theory helps keep your information safe. Without number theory, eCommerce will not happen. The RSA algorithm was introduced 30 years after the death of G. H. Hardy (100 after his birth).

So what is considered useless math today may become purpose driven math tomorrow.

2017 Dan Ma

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