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Dr Mike J Smith

Plymouth University

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Maths - the magic number (or magic bullet?)

Wed, 04 Jan 2017

A really interesting news story from October (I know - it's sat in my bookmarks staring at me!) on the BBC titled Maths becomes biology's magic number... it's a good point that Tom Feilden makes about the nature of inter-disciplinarity and how different subject areas draw upon one another and interbreed to use existing methods/solutions to new problems.

As the introduction to this, he quotes Sir Rory Collins (Oxford University) as saying: "If you want a career in medicine these days you're better off studying mathematics or computing than biology." But actually, you could replace "medicine" and "biology" with a range of other subject areas, including geography. Maths (and related areas in computer science) is the language of nature, of science (something Galileo commented on). Maths provides a descriptive and analytical framework for understanding, analysing and communicating scientific ideas and a lack of mathematical ability is something that continues to vex educators around the world (see the ASE for a guide).

So it's a timely reminder where our current capabilities lie and how we need to build communities that can identify and explore the pressing research requirements that society will have in the future.

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