On his book Mathematics in 10 Lessons: The Grand Tour

Cover Interview of June 02, 2009

The wide angle

Galileo told us many years ago that, if you want to understand nature, you must read her book. And the book of nature, Galileo said, is written in mathematics. Without mathematics there would be no modern world - no technology, and no science beyond mere description. Go to any bookstore and choose any book that purports to explain natural phenomena. That book’s seriousness can be measured exactly by the depth of the mathematics in which it is written. If the book you chose contains little or no mathematics then you can be certain your book explains real-world phenomena only descriptively.

When scientists or engineers speak about the real world they speak in a language called mathematics. If you want to understand them you must understand a certain amount of mathematics. There is no other way. The necessity to understand mathematics is that simple, and that important.

A basic idea of Mathematics in Ten Lessons is that the best way to learn mathematics is to first learn some small piece of mathematics precisely and correctly. If you learn some part of mathematics correctly, then you can learn any part of mathematics if you must learn it or if you simply wish to learn it. Consequently, the book emphasizes the fundamental principles on which the subject is based.

You need not memorize. Learn the principles truly and well and the rest of mathematics simply flows.

[T]he Holocaust transformed our whole way of thinking about war and heroism. War is no longer a proving ground for heroism in the same way it used to be. Instead, war now is something that we must avoid at all costs—because genocides often take place under the cover of war. We are no longer all potential soldiers (though we are that too), but we are all potential victims of the traumas war creates. This, at least, is one important development in the way Western populations envision war, even if it does not always predominate in the thinking of our political leaders.

The dominant premise in evolution and economics is that a person is being loyal to natural law if he or she attends to self’s interest and welfare before being concerned with the needs and demands of family or community. The public does not realize that this statement is not an established scientific principle but an ethical preference. Nonetheless, this belief has created a moral confusion among North Americans and Europeans because the evolution of our species was accompanied by the disposition to worry about kin and the collectives to which one belongs.

## The wide angle

Galileo told us many years ago that, if you want to understand nature, you must read her book. And the book of nature, Galileo said, is written in mathematics. Without mathematics there would be no modern world - no technology, and no science beyond mere description. Go to any bookstore and choose any book that purports to explain natural phenomena. That book’s seriousness can be measured exactly by the depth of the mathematics in which it is written. If the book you chose contains little or no mathematics then you can be certain your book explains real-world phenomena only descriptively.

When scientists or engineers speak about the real world they speak in a language called

mathematics. If you want to understand them you must understand a certain amount of mathematics. There is no other way. The necessity to understand mathematics is that simple, and that important.A basic idea of

Mathematics in Ten Lessonsis that the best way to learn mathematics is to first learn some small piece of mathematics precisely and correctly. If you learn some part of mathematics correctly, then you can learn any part of mathematics if you must learn it or if you simply wish to learn it. Consequently, the book emphasizes the fundamental principles on which the subject is based.You need not memorize. Learn the principles truly and well and the rest of mathematics simply

flows.