Explaining the obvious: the place of mathematics in the sciences

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Current Science, Volume 88, Number 3, p.327–328 (2005)




If there is anything obvious in the rapidly changing world of modern science, it is the essential role of mathematics. Even biologists, many of whom react negatively (if not violently) to the claim that mathematics is necessary, have to acknowledge the various direct and indirect ways in which mathematics influences the growth of their disciplines. However, the problem of obviousness is that what is obvious is soon taken for granted. Not only is the use of mathematics now taken for granted, at least in the physical sciences, it has for long become indispensable to these disciplines. The state of indispensability, as many people in power realize, is always a sure sign of future decline! Although we do not yet see the sign of any impending decline of mathematics on the horizon, there are already claims about new kinds of science, including the one by Wolfram which attempts to model the world not through traditional mathematics but with algorithmic rules.


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