Portal:Mathematics

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Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity. The research required to solve mathematical problems can take years or even centuries of sustained inquiry. However, mathematical proofs are less formal and painstaking than proofs in mathematical logic. Since the pioneering work of Giuseppe Peano (1858–1932), David Hilbert (1862–1943), and others on axiomatic systems in the late 19th century, it has become customary to view mathematical research as establishing truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions. When those mathematical structures are good models of real phenomena, then mathematical reasoning often provides insight or predictions.

Through the use of abstraction and logical reasoning, mathematics developed from counting, calculation, measurement, and the systematic study of the shapes and motions of physical objects. Practical mathematics has been a human activity for as far back as written records exist. Rigorous arguments first appeared in Greek mathematics, most notably in Euclid's Elements. Mathematics developed at a relatively slow pace until the Renaissance, when mathematical innovations interacting with new scientific discoveries led to a rapid increase in the rate of mathematical discovery that continues to the present day.

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) said, "The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word. Without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth". Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) referred to mathematics as "the queen of sciences". The mathematician Benjamin Peirce (1809–1880) called the discipline, "the science that draws necessary conclusions". David Hilbert said of it: "We are not speaking here of arbitrariness in any sense. Mathematics is not like a game whose tasks are determined by arbitrarily stipulated rules. Rather, it is a conceptual system possessing internal necessity that can only be so and by no means otherwise." Albert Einstein (1879–1955) stated that "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality".

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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The continuum hypothesis is a hypothesis, advanced by Georg Cantor, about the possible sizes of infinite sets. Cantor introduced the concept of cardinality to compare the sizes of infinite sets, and he showed that the set of integers is strictly smaller than the set of real numbers. The continuum hypothesis states the following:

There is no set whose size is strictly between that of the integers and that of the real numbers.

Or mathematically speaking, noting that the cardinality for the integers |\mathbb{Z}| is \aleph_0 ("aleph-null") and the cardinality of the real numbers |\mathbb{R}| is 2^{\aleph_0}, the continuum hypothesis says

\nexists \mathbb{A}: \aleph_0 < |\mathbb{A}| < 2^{\aleph_0}.

This is equivalent to:

2^{\aleph_0} = \aleph_1

The real numbers have also been called the continuum, hence the name.

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diagram of a unit circle and several associated triangles whose side lengths are the values of the various trigonometric functions
Credit: Steven G. Johnson

This is a graphical construction of the various trigonometric functions from a unit circle centered at the origin, O, and two points, A and D, on the circle separated by a central angle θ. The triangle AOC has side lengths cos θ (OC, the side adjacent to the angle θ) and sin θ (AC, the side opposite the angle), and a hypotenuse of length 1 (because the circle has unit radius). When the tangent line AE to the circle at point A is drawn to meet the extension of OD beyond the limits of the circle, the triangle formed, AOE, contains sides of length tan θ (AE) and sec θ (OE). When the tangent line is extended in the other direction to meet the line OF drawn perpendicular to OC, the triangle formed, AOF, has sides of length cot θ (AF) and csc θ (OF). In addition to these common trigonometric functions, the diagram also includes some functions that have fallen into disuse: the chord (AD), versine (CD), exsecant (DE), coversine and excosecant (under point F). First used in the early Middle Ages by Indian and Islamic mathematicians to solve simple geometrical problems (e.g., solving triangles), the trigonometric functions today are used in sophisticated two- and three-dimensional computer modeling (especially when rotating modeled objects), as well as in the study of sound and other mechanical waves, light (electromagnetic waves), and electrical networks.

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