Today is one of the annual celebrations of my quixotic quest to have the “days” associated with particularly important numbers, like Phi (φ) and Pi (π), placed upon days that actually reflect the math behind the numbers. The number Phi (φ) is the ratio between a longer line segment and a shorter line segment in a variety of geometric shapes, including the famous golden rectangle, pentagrams, and the Fibonacci spiral. August 14th is the day in the calendar year that best creates this same ratio between the total length of the year and the date in question. Therefore, August 14th is, or rather should be, celebrated internationally as Phi Day.
Since I run this joint, it is officially Phi Day at The Finch & Pea. If we had merchandise, there would probably be a discount. I suspect this would not change the likelihood that you would buy The Finch & Pea merchandise.
But don’t just read the headline – be sure to catch the nuance in Wilson’s piece. He’s saying don’t let fear of math drive you from science, because you don’t need straight A’s through four semesters of calculus to be a good scientist.
I don’t quite agree with Wilson when he says you can always find a mathematician as a collaborator to handle the math you need. A mathematically illiterate biologist working with a biologically illiterate mathematician is usually not a fruitful combination. But good scientists pick up the necessary mental toolkit as it’s needed, including mathematical and statistical knowledge (as long as they’re willing to put some serious effort into gaining that knowledge, as opposed to, say, figuring out how to mindlessly apply t-tests).
I love John Baez’s blog that was a blog before we called things blogs, This Week’s Finds. (He also writes the Azimuth blog, linked in our blogroll below. And I tip my hat to my father-in-law, who first introduced me to Baez’s blog.)
Baez is now writing on network theory. Baez typically focuses on math and physics, but this series is great for biologists:
I wish there were a branch of mathematics—in my dreams I call it green mathematics—that would interact with biology and ecology just as fruitfully as traditional mathematics interacts with physics. If the 20th century was the century of physics, while the 21st is the century of biology, shouldn’t mathematics change too? As we struggle to understand and improve humanity’s interaction with the biosphere, shouldn’t mathematicians have some role to play?