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Portal:Mathematics

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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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Four Colour Map Example.svg
Example of a four color map
Image credit: User:Inductiveload

The four color theorem states that given any plane separated into regions, such as a political map of the counties of a state, the regions may be colored using no more than four colors in such a way that no two adjacent regions receive the same color. Two regions are called adjacent if they share a border segment, not just a point. "Color by Number" worksheets and exercises, which combine learning art and math for people of young ages, are a good example of the four color theorem.

It is often the case that using only three colors is inadequate. This applies already to the map with one region surrounded by three other regions (even though with an even number of surrounding countries three colors are enough) and it is not at all difficult to prove that five colors are sufficient to color a map.

The four color theorem was the first major theorem to be proven using a computer, and the proof is disputed by some mathematicians because it would be infeasible for a human to verify by hand (see computer-aided proof). Ultimately, in order to believe the proof, one has to have faith in the correctness of the compiler and hardware executing the program used for the proof.

The lack of mathematical elegance was another factor, and to paraphrase comments of the time, "a good mathematical proof is like a poem — this is a telephone directory!"

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animation of the construction of a fourth-degree Bézier curve

A Bézier curve is a parametric curve important in computer graphics and related fields. Widely publicized in 1962 by the French engineer Pierre Bézier, who used them to design automobile bodies, the curves were first developed in 1959 by Paul de Casteljau using de Casteljau's algorithm. In this animation, a quartic Bézier curve is constructed using control points P0 through P4. The green line segments join points moving at a constant rate from one control point to the next; the parameter t shows the progress over time. Meanwhile, the blue line segments join points moving in a similar manner along the green segments, and the magenta line segment points along the blue segments. Finally, the black point moves at a constant rate along the magenta line segment, tracing out the final curve in red. The curve is a fourth-degree function of its parameter. Quadratic and cubic Bézier curves are most common since higher-degree curves are more computationally costly to evaluate. When more complex shapes are needed, lower-order Bézier curves are patched together. For example, modern computer fonts use Bézier splines composed of quadratic or cubic Bézier curves to create scalable typefaces. The curves are also used in computer animation and video games to plot smooth paths of motion. Approximate Bézier curves can be generated in the "real world" using string art.

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The Mathematics WikiProject is the center for mathematics-related editing on Wikipedia. Join the discussion on the project's talk page.

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Index of mathematics articles

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