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Patrick Stevens

Former mathematics student at the University of Cambridge; now a software engineer.

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The world runs on mathematics.

Nearly everyone is dimly aware of this fact: it is taught, though not in great detail, to all schoolchildren past a certain age. Broadly speaking, we refer to that which links directly to the underlying mathematics by the name of “science”.

While they have been taught that this deeper structure exists, however, most people never learn to probe it. The education system ensures they can at least recognise the crudest mathematical manipulations when performed in front of them, but they are content to wait for the next magical breakthrough by those who study the great mysteries. And this is not a bad thing: for while everything is powered by mathematics, its sheer complexity gives rise to vast structures for which we must approximate, unable to wield the full power of its unchanging and eternal tools.

Humans are one such structure. Fields such as sociology and medicine and art are a still more abstract construct on top of the humans; and if everyone studied mathematics, we would have no-one to tell us about the emergent gestalt.

Even so, mathematics has been the source of the great breakthroughs in understanding the structure of all things. We now have places we can go to learn more about mathematics, where we can discover deeper truths about the workings of the universe. The universities. The great machines embedded in the very fabric of the Earth, filled with detectors to pinpoint the subtlest shifts in spacetime itself. The metal boxes we have placed miles above the Earth, falling perpetually at dizzying speeds through the void.

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