“I want people to see abstract mathematics as a human activity. I want people to see beauty that persists beyond appearance,” said Dr. Steven Senger, assistant professor of mathematics at Missouri State University.
Missouri State’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences (CNAS) will host a free public lecture at 7:30 p.m. March 15 in Temple Hall, Room 002. The lecture, presented by Senger, will discuss abstract mathematics and its relevancy to everyday life.
Breaking mathematical stereotypes
Besides the benefit of providing us with complex words for science fiction movies and novels, Senger believes that interest in abstract mathematics is innately human.
“I think it is safe to say we derive pleasure from pattern recognition in general, especially when we see ‘beautiful’ patterns,” said Senger. “Mathematics is a blanket term that covers many different kinds of patterns, but they each have their own beauty.”
When he reveals to someone that he is a mathematician, however, Senger is frequently met with shock and surprise.
“I think there is a lot of fear and distaste associated with my discipline that I’d like to dispel,” said Senger. “I want people to see that mathematics is not some sick punishment of the universe, but a handy way of describing patterns and phenomena.”
These patterns and their persistence beyond one physical instance are the root of the study of abstract mathematics.
Some mathematical hows and whys
In his lecture, Senger plans to discuss “what is math and why we do it.” Senger will also present results from his own research in the field of geometric combinatorics, which focuses on shapes and patterns more than numbers or formulas.
“It is basically a fancy term for shape counting,” said Senger. “To think about many problems in my area of research, you just need to know very basic things, like ‘what is a point’ and ‘what is a line.’”
Additionally, Senger will discuss some applications of abstract mathematics as well as the cultural aspects of mathematics and what it reveals about us as a species.
“I don’t think that every single human being needs to study abstract mathematics,” said Senger. “But I do wish that everyone could see a fraction of the beauty that I see when I just sit and think.”
For more information, contact Senger at (417) 836-6667.