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Portal:Mathematics

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The Mathematics Portal


Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.

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Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor (December 3, 1845, St. Petersburg, Russia – January 6, 1918, Halle, Germany) was a German mathematician who is best known as the creator of set theory. Cantor established the importance of one-to-one correspondence between sets, defined infinite and well-ordered sets, and proved that the real numbers are "more numerous" than the natural numbers. In fact, Cantor's theorem implies the existence of an "infinity of infinities." He defined the cardinal and ordinal numbers, and their arithmetic. Cantor's work is of great philosophical interest, a fact of which he was well aware.

Cantor's work encountered resistance from mathematical contemporaries such as Leopold Kronecker and Henri Poincaré, and later from Hermann Weyl and L.E.J. Brouwer. Ludwig Wittgenstein raised philosophical objections. Nowadays, the vast majority of mathematicians who are neither constructivists nor finitists accept Cantor's work on transfinite sets and arithmetic, recognizing it as a major paradigm shift.

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three-dimensional rendering of a pink, translucent Klein bottle
Credit: Wridgers

A Klein bottle is an example of a closed surface (a two-dimensional manifold) that is non-orientable (no distinction between the "inside" and "outside"). This image is a representation of the object in everyday three-dimensional space, but a true Klein bottle is an object in four-dimensional space. When it is constructed in three-dimensions, the "inner neck" of the bottle curves outward and intersects the side; in four dimensions, there is no such self-intersection (the effect is similar to a two-dimensional representation of a cube, in which the edges seem to intersect each other between the corners, whereas no such intersection occurs in a true three-dimensional cube). Also, while any real, physical object would have a thickness to it, the surface of a true Klein bottle has no thickness. Thus in three dimensions there is an inside and outside in a colloquial sense: liquid forced through the opening on the right side of the object would collect at the bottom and be contained on the inside of the object. However, on the four-dimensional object there is no inside and outside in the way that a sphere has an inside and outside: an unbroken curve can be drawn from a point on the "outer" surface (say, the object's lowest point) to the right, past the "lip" to the "inside" of the narrow "neck", around to the "inner" surface of the "body" of the bottle, then around on the "outer" surface of the narrow "neck", up past the "seam" separating the inside and outside (which, as mentioned before, does not exist on the true 4-D object), then around on the "outer" surface of the body back to the starting point (see the light gray curve on this simplified diagram). In this regard, the Klein bottle is a higher-dimensional analog of the Möbius strip, a two-dimensional manifold that is non-orientable in ordinary 3-dimensional space. In fact, a Klein bottle can be constructed (conceptually) by "gluing" the edges of two Möbius strips together.

Did you know...
  • ...that as of April 2010 only 35 even numbers have been found that are not the sum of two primes which are each in a Twin Primes pair? ref
  • ...that people are significantly slower to identify the parity of zero than other whole numbers, regardless of age, language spoken, or whether the symbol or word for zero is used?
  • ...that Auction theory was successfully used in 1994 to sell FCC airwave spectrum, in a financial application of game theory?
  • ...properties of Pascal's triangle have application in many fields of mathematics including combinatorics, algebra, calculus and geometry?
  • ...work in artificial intelligence makes use of Swarm intelligence, which has foundations in the behavorial examples found in nature of ants, birds, bees, and fish among others?
  • ...that statistical properties dictated by Benford's Law are used in auditing of financial accounts as one means of detecting fraud?

                         

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Index of mathematics articles

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