“Mathematics is not only an independent science, but also provides language, ideas, methods and tools for the development of all other sciences, technologies and engineering.” from Ma Zhiming, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. On June 30, Professor Ma Zhiming was invited to Peiyang Math Forum to talk about some beautiful stories of mathematics and modern civilization. The lecture was chaired by Sun Xiaotao, Dean of School of Mathematics.
Compared with other disciplines, the development of mathematics derives from the needs of survival, the development of scientific research, the inherent curiosity and logical thinking of human beings, and the unremitting pursuit of beauty. Ma Zhiming believes that these practical, scientific, aesthetic and philosophical factors all contributed to the development of mathematics, in which the needs in real life play an important rule.
From natural science to human society, from advanced technology to our daily life, mathematics is everywhere. He summed up the relationship between mathematics and the development of modern civilization using the words of Morris Kline, the American historian of mathematics, "The overall characteristics of an age is closely related to the mathematical activities in this age".
Then, Professor Ma illustrated by a series of typical examples how results of mathematics can lead to development of science and technology. From his words, we learned the vector form of Maxwell's equations leads to the discovery of electromagnetic waves; Wassestein distance, a classic theoretical concept, can be applied to generating antagonistic network model as recent research has shown, and the idea behind the search engine Google is the PageRank algorithm which measures the importance of website pages.
When it comes to the relationship between pure mathematics and applied mathematics, Ma Zhiming argued that they cannot be separated from each other, but promote each other and complement each other. He also enumerated the applications of pure mathematical theories in financial economy and modern life science. Itô's lemma, created by Japanese mathematician Kiyosi Itô, is a significant formula in both stochastic analysis and financial mathematics. The Shapley-Shubik power index formulated by American economist Lloyd Shapley also has great influence in the financial field. Ma also introduced that in modern life science, molecular evolution tree and phylogenetic tree are presented to study inter-disciplines.
At last, Ma Zhiming compared the relationship between the pure mathematics and applied mathematics with icebergs floating in the sea. He said "Mathematics is like an iceberg. The part of the iceberg under the water is pure mathematics, and the surface is the penetration and application of mathematics that we can see in other fields. Without the support of the underwater part, the part above the surface of water will no longer exist. " He urged all of listeners to study hard and climb the mathematical ice peak with the perseverance.
Professor Ma patiently answered the questions from listeners. A young teacher asked, “What is the driving force for scientific researcher? Is it an interest driven or an application oriented?”. He answered that the choosing of mathematical research should be comply with your actual situation, and the output of your research should not influenced or controlled by its own profession. On the issue of “Should teach the traditional statistical methods in undergraduate teaching?”, he said that the traditional statistical methods should not be abandoned, and teachers should pay more attention to arouse the interests of statistical methods exploring.
By: Ma Changying