Steven Strogatz possesses a special ability to see into the unseen. How does he do it? Steve is a world class mathematician, who sees through the window of math. But, lucky for us, he’s also a world class communicator. An award-winning professor, researcher, author, and creative thinker, Steve can help anyone (even Alan Alda) understand some of the unseen world of numbers. In this episode, Alan and Steven start from zero, not the number, but from a place of not knowing anything. He emerges from the darkness for a moment as Steve actually gets Alan to understand something that’s always mystified him. Steven's latest book, "Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe," is now available online and at all major book sellers.
I’ve always thought that Euler and Cauchy have their names on so many theorems simply because they did a lot of simple, basic exploration at a time when there was a lot of low hanging mathematical fruit to be gathered. Too many math books and teachers mythologize these men for what seems like magic, yet when taught to explore the same way even young children can figure out many of these same theorems for themselves.
If we could only teach the “how to do math” while children are young and then only move to the theorem-proof business later on as a means of quickly advancing through a lot of history and background so that students can get to the frontiers of math to begin doing their own explorations on their own again we would be far better off. Though along that path we should always have at least some emphasis on the doing of math and discovery to keep it at the fore.