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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Circle-trig6.svg
All of the trigonometric functions of an angle θ can be constructed geometrically in terms of a unit circle centered at O.
Image credit: User:Tttrung

The trigonometric functions are functions of an angle; they are most important when studying triangles and modeling periodic phenomena, among many other applications. They are commonly defined as ratios of two sides of a right triangle containing the angle, and can equivalently be defined as the lengths of various line segments from a unit circle. More modern definitions express them as infinite series or as solutions of certain differential equations, allowing their extension to positive and negative values and even to complex numbers.

The study of trigonometric functions dates back to Babylonian times, and a considerable amount of fundamental work was done by ancient Greek, Indian and Arab mathematicians.

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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 sides 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.

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